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AT&T CEO wants Silicon Valley to leave encryption regulation to politicians

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson believes that it should be up to the Congress, not Silicon Valley companies, to determine US policy on encrypted data and devices.

Published onJanuary 22, 2016


Consumer level data encryption has become a particularly hot topic in the US lately, with tech giants, legislators and Presidential hopefuls alike all weighing in their own opinions. AT&T is the latest company to chime in on the subject, and company Chief Executive Randall Stephenson believes that it should be up to the Congress, not tech companies, to determine US policy on encrypted data.

In case you’ve missed it, the issue revolves around the use of encryption in consumer level gadgets, such as your smartphone, and what effects this has on law enforcement and their ability to conduct investigations. Some suggest that a “backdoor” to company encryption methods should be mandatory in case governments require access, others want to ban device encryption entirely, and some companies want to protect user data regardless of what legislators believe.

“I don’t think it is Silicon Valley’s decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do. I understand Tim Cook’s decision, but I don’t think it’s his decision to make“ … “I personally think that this is an issue that should be decided by the American people and Congress, not by companies,” – Randall Stephenson, AT&T

The comment from AT&T comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook recently restated the company’s stance on user privacy, adding that backdoors simply aren’t viable as they could be exploited. Cook has been increasingly vocal about his opposition to policy proposals, stating that consumers shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and security.

The topic of encryption also sprung up during the recent US presidential debates, with both GOP and Democrat candidates calling for leading tech companies to do more to assist the government in the fight against terrorism. This issue isn’t limited to the USA though. Earlier in the month, Microsoft, Google and Facebook urged UK officials not to force communications service providers to decrypt customer traffic. All three believe that encryption is an essential security tool and are opposed to backdoors and forced decryption.

Where do you stand on device encryption? According to recent data, only 8 percent of Android users bother with it anyway.