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

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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.