AT&T’s CEO claims corporations have no say in the encryption debate

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When it comes to respecting the privacy of its users and rejecting profligate government surveillance, few companies have as bad of a track record as AT&T, which seems to go out of its way to help the government spy on its users. That’s why it’s not all that surprising to hear AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson say that corporations shouldn’t have any say in whether encryption is right or wrong, and that the government should be the one to decide. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Stephenson mentioned Tim Cook directly, who has been extremely vocal in his support for unbreakable encryption, saying that while he understands Cooks decision, he simply doesn’t have a say in the matter.

Congress, not companies, should determine U.S. policy on access to encrypted data on cellphones and other devices, AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said in an interview. “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,” Mr. Stephenson said Wednesday in an interview here with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum. Mr. Cook, Apple Inc.’s CEO, has pushed back against criticism of the encryption used in iPhones, saying consumers shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and security. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr. Stephenson’s remarks. She reiterated the company’s position that ​it’s impossible to create a backdoor to encryption that only law enforcement, and not criminals, can access. Law-enforcement officials around the globe have argued that such encryption is an impediment to criminal investigations. They have amplified their calls for companies to provide better access following terror attacks from Paris to California to Indonesia. U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier this month that law-enforcement officers and intelligence agencies need to have the ability to unlock encrypted information, while still protecting consumer privacy.

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