Tim Cook criticised rivals over privacy and warns about government attempts to weaken encryption
Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has lambasted rival tech firms over privacy and warned about government attempts to weaken encryption technologies.
Cook did little to disguise his criticisms of firms such as Google and Facebook, which he says seek to collect as much information about people as possible in order to make money.
Cook was speaking to the EPIC Champions of Freedom event in Washington earlier this week, which honored him for ‘corporate leadership’. The hosts of the event included cryptography luminary Bruce Schneier.
“Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,” Cook was quoted as saying on Techcrunch. “We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it.”
And Cook then used his speech to attack rivals. Whilst he did not publicly named Google and Facebook, it is clear he was referring to companies which rely on advertising revenues based on the data they collect from users.
“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” Cook reportedly said. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”
Cook added that Apple ‘doesn’t want your data.’
“We don’t think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost,” he is quoted as saying. “This is especially true now that we’re storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices.”
“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.”
That “very high cost” point was a little dig at Google, which used its I/O event to launch its Google’s Photos product. Unlike Apple, Google’s Photos is free and allows users to upload as many photos as they like, but some have questioned the privacy trade-off by allowing Google access to your photos.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has previously slated Apple (and others) for its efforts (or lack thereof) to keep government hands away from user data. It has also removed an app from its App store that was designed to help people gain insight into how far their iOS applications are infringing on their privacy.
But Cook also reflected similar concerns from other tech rivals regarding government attempts to weaken encryption technology, or at least to obtain backdoors.
“We think this is incredibly dangerous,” he said. “We’ve been offering encryption tools in our products for years, and we’re going to stay on that path. We think it’s a critical feature for our customers who want to keep their data secure.”
“If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too,” he said. “Criminals are using every technology tool at their disposal to hack into people’s accounts. If they know there’s a key hidden somewhere, they won’t stop until they find it.”
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