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AT&T CEO: Congress Should Decide On Encrypted Smartphone Ban

January 22, 2016 - Written By John Anon

Encryption is a very hot topic right now and especially for consumers in the U.S. So much so, that it has been widely reported that New York is considering a ban on encrypted smartphones. Or at least, encrypted smartphones which cannot be decrypted. However, this week also saw California join the debate with a bill being introduced in much the same fashion as New York. One which also is intended to consider a ban on the sale of encrypted smartphones in the state. This has all led to quite the debate on whether authorities should be able to have access to consumer smartphones at this level. On the one hand, there is the clear issue of security and this is the argument which is largely put forward by the powers-that-be. While consumers on the other hand, seem less keen on a smartphone encryption ban, for obvious reasons.

Another voice which joined the debate this week, is AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson. During an interviewing giving in Switzerland, Stephenson was reported noting that it should be up to Congress to make a decision like this. The statement comes when Stephenson was asked about the debate and the sentiment being made is that Stephenson feels that tech companies should not have the power to decide whether devices are encrypted or not. Instead, this is much more of a Congress and the American people decision. The statement is thought to be in direct retaliation to Apple’s Tim Cook, who was also recently reported joining the debate by taking the consumer side and suggesting consumers should not have to make a choice between security and privacy. Reiterating his stance, Stephenson was noting explaining “I understand Tim Cook’s decision, but I don’t think it’s his decision to make“.

Of course, it is understandable that tech companies will take a harder line against such encryption. If the California bill was to be passed, then devices which run on Android (as well as Apple’s range) will not be able to be sold in California – if they do come with unbreakable encryption enabled. However, the issue remains that while news reports keep coming through on various breaches of consumer data, it is going to be hard for Google and manufacturers to balance the needs of the consumers, as well as that of Congress.