Apple encryption stand highlights mobile operators' dilemma

Fri Feb 26, 2016 12:58pm EST
 
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By Eric Auchard

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Apple Inc's (AAPL.O: Quote) stance on privacy in the face of a U.S. government demand to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers has raised awkward questions for the world's mobile network operators.

Top executives at this week's global telecom industry gathering in Barcelona admit they are constantly trying to strike a balance between the expectations and demands of their own users, government regulators and national politicians.

Apple's stand -- it argues that to unlock the iPhone would violate its free speech rights -- has brought questions over these competing forces to the fore, exposing gaps in some telecoms operators' own approaches.

"It's very complicated, we don't have a clear position," Vodafone (VOD.L: Quote) Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said, adding that the UK-based mobile operator is in more than 25 countries and must respect the security laws in each of those and more.

"We have privacy and customer safeguards as our number one value...I understand why Apple has a similar concern" he said.

However for others it is more clear-cut.

"Do I understand Apple’s position? No, honestly, it's difficult for us to say that we share it," Orange CEO Stephane Richard told journalists at the Barcelona event.

Richard, who runs France's biggest telecom provider said he appreciates Apple's position on user privacy, but this must be considered alongside the need for security services "to have the maximum means to catch people who have bad intentions".   Continued...

 
A worker climbs outside an Apple store in Hong Kong, China, in this April 10, 2013 file photo.   REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files