AT&T (NYSE: T) CEO Randall Stephenson said Congress should determine U.S. policies regarding encryption rather than tech companies, The Wall Street Journal reported. Stephenson, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, broke stride with Apple CEO Tim Cook, who has repeatedly objected to criticism of the encryption being used in iPhones.
"I don't think it is Silicon Valley's decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do," Stephenson said. "I understand Tim Cook's decision, but I don't think it's his decision to make."
Cook earlier this month publicly rebuked Obama administration officials who recently visited Silicon Valley to discuss encryption policies with tech leaders, as reported by The Intercept. Cook said the administration should make a blanket statement saying "no backdoors," which would mean overruling requests from some high-level officials and others that tech companies build pathways of special access for law enforcement into otherwise unbreakable encryption.
Apple claims that it is impossible to build backdoors that only law enforcement -- and no one else -- can access. The company has also maintained that the government can get necessary data from sources other than its devices including carriers and backup computers.
"I personally think that this is an issue that should be decided by the American people and Congress, not by companies," Stephenson continued, adding that AT&T has been unfairly criticized for giving government officials access to data. "It is silliness to say there's some kind of conspiracy between the U.S. government and AT&T."
Stephenson added that AT&T turns over such information only when mandated by a warrant or court order.
- see this Wall Street Journal report
Apple reportedly pushes back on government efforts to decrypt messages
Wickr, secure messaging startup, aims to power encrypted communications for Facebook and financial transactions
T-Mobile upgrades to A5/3 encryption on parts of GSM network in attempt to thwart eavesdropping
Apple's Cook meets with Chinese vice premier following report of iCloud hack in China
FBI director says cell phone data must be available for law enforcement
Apple to start selling iPhone 6, 6 Plus in China after addressing security concerns