Democracy Has No Place In The Crypto Wars

AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, had some choice words for Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook. Namely, Stephenson doesn’t appreciate Cook’s stance on effective encryption:

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson doesn’t think Apple CEO Tim Cook should be making long-term decisions around encryption that could ripple across the technology industry. “I don’t think it is Silicon Valley’s decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do,” he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Wednesday. “I understand Tim Cook’s decision, but I don’t think it’s his decision to make,” said Stephenson. “I personally think that this is an issue that should be decided by the American people and Congress, not by companies.”

I’m sure this has everything to do with Stephenson’s strong belief in democracy and nothing at all to do with his company’s surveillance partnership with the National Security Agency (NSA). But let’s address the issue of democracy.

Stephenson says that effective cryptography should be decided by the American people. Unless I’m missing something Tim Cook is an American citizen. His stance on effective cryptography is his decision. Therefore is position is decided by an American person. Furthermore, why should anybody outside of Apple have a voice in the company’s stance? Stephenson is an employee of AT&T so his opinion shouldn’t be relevant to Apple. Congress, likewise, isn’t employed by Apple so their opinions shouldn’t be relevant to Apple either. Democracy, outside of groups voluntarily decided to vote on matters involving only themselves, is bullshit. It’s a tool for people to inflict their will on others. In fact it may very well be the grossest form of might makes right our species has developed.

I understand Stephenson’s decision, part of his business relies on surveillance, but it’s not his decision to make. This is an issue that should be decided by those creating the tools. If Stephenson wants to insert backdoors into his company’s products that’s fine, I’ll simply avoid using his products. But his has no right to demand other companies follow suit.