Verizon CEO McAdam Calls for Encryption, Clear Laws on Security

  • Government shouldn't be handed keys to access information
  • National debate, legal answers needed for clarity, McAdam says

Tech leaders and U.S. lawmakers must come to a long-term solution on how to simultaneously protect individual privacy and national security, Verizon Communications Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam said.

In a letter posted Monday on LinkedIn, McAdam said that he wanted to give Verizon’s perspective on the debate, which centers on the dispute between Apple Inc. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The largest U.S. wireless carrier favors encrypted communication to assure privacy and is against giving the government tools, or so-called back doors, to access information, McAdam wrote.

“There may be legitimate reasons for preventing the destruction of data, such as the investigation of terrorism and serious crimes,” McAdam wrote. “These 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.”

McAdam and Verizon join a growing list of executives and companies that have expressed concern over a need to balance privacy and safety and the degree of cooperation required to help the government and law enforcement in intrusion efforts. Apple is expected to tell the House Judiciary Committee in a hearing Tuesday that giving the government tools to unlock phones would “weaken the security” of its products. Apple is fighting a court order to help the FBI unlock the phone used by one of the terrorists in a December attack that left 14 people dead and 22 wounded in San Bernardino, California. The phone was on Verizon’s network.

‘Unintended Consequences’

Mobile phones have become depositories of vast personal information and many people rely on their devices for activities like banking, home security and accessing health records. The rules around government access to that information need to evolve to reflect this growing importance, according to McAdam.

“Questions about privacy and security in a mobile world go far beyond any one case, and having one judge in one region of the U.S. set this precedent could result in unintended consequences,” McAdam said. “We should all demand that our elected representatives all the way to the top become involved in debating and coming to a conclusion around these issues.”

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