AT&T CEO thinks Apple should give up on protecting encryption


Should Apple cave when it comes to encryption?
Should Apple cave when it comes to encryption?
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple is a fierce defender of its customers’ privacy, which is why every iPhone and iPad has its data encrypted by default. But according to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Apple and CEO Tim Cook should show their bellies and let Congress decide whether encrypted data should be accessible through backdoors by government agencies.

In a new interview with The Wall Street Journal, Stephenson argued:

“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.”

Of course, the American people — and definitely Congress — don’t really understand the issue. Many government agencies want Apple to build backdoors into its encryption mechanisms, so they can easily access private data if they suspect an iPhone, iPad or Mac user is guilty of a crime.

Even if government agencies can be trusted not to abuse that policy, though, Apple argues such backdoors are just as likely to be abused by hackers as they are to help law enforcement agencies. There’s no such thing as a safe backdoor when it comes to encryption, they say.

The encryption issue is rapidly heating up for Apple. The iPhone’s encryption is so good, not even cops can get past it, and the FBI has even considered taking Apple to court over the issue.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in both New York and California are trying to pass laws to ban encrypted iPhones from being sold in their states.

What do you think? Should Apple cave? And if Cupertino doesn’t cave willingly, will it eventually be forced to anyway? Let us know in the comments.

  • Oldnavystu

    Privacy is PRIVATE. Keep ur nose out of my business. Bravo Tim!

    • asdfadsf

      Stephenson is a clown…

  • Christopher Udy

    Add this to any potential law regarding requiring a backdoor for encryption and see how they like it…

    Any legislator/regulator who is in office when this law is approved or in effect will be required to release all personal/government/business emails, phone records, bank statements, photos, usernames/passwords, and any other personal information requested by ANYONE within 24 hours of any public release of personal information obtained through the encryption back door. No exemptions, no redactions permitted.

    I doubt these people would support it then…

    • scottmichaels

      Is that “real?” Where is that because that’s just awesome?!

    • nwcs

      Just ask Hillary to set up a few more unofficial government servers.

  • scottmichaels

    Stephenson is just trolling Apple and Cook because ATT hasn’t seen the limelight since, well, the first iPhone. As for states requiring backdoors in order to be sold within the state, people will simply order online and/or buy from another state. How stupid can states get?!

  • Danny-wa

    I wonder how much it cost to get him to say that and if it is taxpayer money funding that. AT&T wouldn’t go out of their way to alienate a business partner this way if there weren’t financial incentive. Plus all the, “Let’s pile on Apple because that’s the trend this week and oh, look, squirrel!”

  • The opinion of the CEO of ATT is irrelevant…piss off Randall…mind your own company…

  • Better yet…comply with the backdoor request but furnish code that allows the backdoor to be permanently shut by the end user… ;)

    • tjwolf

      That’s almost as dumb as he request itself. Dont these idiots who ask for back doors realize that if they get to have a key to the back door when they have “reasonable cause”, so can any other government?? How would a US senator like it when Apple lets the Chinse government read his private conversations – because that government made a legal request?

      Aside from the impossibility of keeping the back door locked from hackers, it’s a slippery slope when governments – some of them dictatorships or worse – get to demand a key.

      • I was being completely facetious with my comment…lol

      • tjwolf

        I seem to lack a nose for facesciousness :-)

  • asdfadsf

    Absolutely NOT. And he won’t, Tim Cook is not stupid.

  • asdfadsf

    This is an issue that should be decided by people who understand IT-security not by politicians.

  • Andre Helmstetter

    On this one, legislators need to take their lead from Apple. It’s just a big info grab that they want. We the people need to stand up and vote out anyone who supports this kind of BS. Keep fighting the good fight Tim.

  • asdfadsf

    Of course it’s he decision to make. Leave this stuff to the professionals and let the clueless politicians and corrupt CEO’s stay aut of it.

    Why should we compromise our security because some lazy FBI-agents don’t want to do real detective work, but want everything to be handed to them on a silver plate?

  • asdfadsf

    Stephenson should be ashamed of himself

  • TJ

    Apple’s privacy scheme is a core feature that gives them a competitive advantage. (Good, decent) people trust apple and use their technology more freely because they know Apple’s got their back. Maybe the gov’t should also make AT&T profit share with it’s competitors. Such hypocrisy…

  • asdfadsf

    This whole encryption backdoor thing is a “Everything or nothing” situation. Either you put backdoors into EVERYTHING (which would be impossible) or you don’t do it at all. If the backdoors are not put into every device/os/app new or old, the criminal/terrorist would still find the ones without it or easily built their own, and continue to communicate encrypted. The result would be that everyone would suffer from this EXCEPT the criminal/terrorist. That itself would be a win for the terrorist.

    Don’t let the terrorist win. Tim keep up the good work….

  • wally2you

    I strongly agree with Tim Cook, so much so that I would not trust the CEO of AT&T. I could easily be convinced that Mr. Stephenson is a shill for the NSA, or is looking to placate a weak Congress.

  • asdfadsf

    I had to google this guy Stephenson to see if he actually looks as stupid as he is.Yep he does :)

  • nusm

    I think Apple/Tim Cook should tell AT&T “we don’t want you selling an encrypted phone when it’s against what you believe in, so we’re going to pull our phones from you.” Betcha dollars to doughnuts that Stephenson *suddenly* has a change of heart about encryption.

  • johnnygoodface

    “There’s no such thing as a safe backdoor when it comes to encryption” : All has been said, now give it a rest and don’t touch my encryption!!!