Verizon Comes Out Strong for Encryption

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam stopped short of taking sides in Apple's legal battle with the Obama Administration over access to encrypted info on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, but he blogged his strong support for encryption Monday and said that, bottom line, the government should not have direct access to technological privacy back doors.

Apple is fighting a court order, sought by the FCC, to create a way to hack into the password protected phone.

'[A]ny decisions made about access to those systems need to be considered carefully," McAdam wrote. "Should one government be given access to your personal information or the operations of connected infrastructure? If we say 'yes' to one government, how about others? If governments have access, how can we be confident that those with bad intentions can’t use those same systems to gain access through hacking?"

He said those questions need careful answers given what is at stake, but said that "without taking sides on the Apple case specifically," he said Verizon clearly stands for strong encryption with "no back doors."

"We support the availability of strong encryption with no 'back doors' that would enable government access to private information, which we believe would degrade security and privacy for millions of users," McAdam said.

The administration more broadly has been seeking workarounds to encryption in the case of targeted investigations involving potential threats to life or safety.

As for the specific circumstances of the Apple case -- a single phone of a possible terrorist and how Apple would have to create the back door -- McAdam said that case represents unique policy issues that should be addressed by Congress.

"In particular, there may be legitimate reasons for preventing the destruction of data, such as the investigation of terrorism and serious crimes," he said. But if so, "[t]hese conditions must be strictly defined by law, not arrived at haphazardly on an ad hoc or case-by-case basis, as in the Apple case."

That said, McAdam said Verizon opposed any solution that "would place direct technical access in the hands of law enforcement."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.