Tim Cook Burns Tech Rivals and the Feds Over Privacy and Encryption in Stirring Speech
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered a robust, and very thinly veiled, rebuke to Facebook and Google over their privacy policies in a speech at the "EPIC Champions of Freedom" event in Washington on Monday night. Cook was being honored by the civil liberties-guarding nonprofit, and spoke remotely 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."
Without naming names, Cook lashed out at rivals who are "gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it." (See: Facebook) "We think that's wrong. And it's not the kind of company that Apple wants to be." According to Techcrunch's account of the speech, Cook argued that the cost of trading one's private data in exchange for a free service is too high, and that customers should always 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," he said. "And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is."
It's safe to assume Cook was throwing shade at Google and its newly unveiled Photos product when referring to "family photos data" being dredged and monetized. The free service gives users unlimited storage of their images on Google's cloud, which some critics believe to be nothing more than a "massive land grab for personal data."
Cook's other oversized bullet point in his speech revolved around the "battle over encryption," telling attendees that some government agencies -- namely the Dept. of Homeland Security, which argues encryption enables our enemies to communicate freely -- are "hoping to undermine the ability of ordinary citizens to encrypt their data."
He said encryption tools were a "critical feature for our customers who want to keep their data secure" and that removing such tools "as some in Washington would like us to do, would only hurt law-abiding citizens who rely on us to protect their data. The bad guys will still encrypt; it's easy to do and readily available."
Cook then went for the gut, warning that weakening or removing encryption "harms good people that are using it for the right reasons. And ultimately, I believe it has a chilling effect on our First Amendment rights and undermines our country’s founding principles."