Tim Cook Rips Competitors, Government For Undermining Privacy

Tim Cook gave a blistering speech attacking both the government and Apple’s competitors for eroding people’s constitutional right to privacy. He didn’t name Facebook or Google directly, but he came pretty close.

According to TechCrunch, Cook gave the speech at the EPIC’s Champions of Freedom meeting. He was being honored by the organization, a Washington research center focusing on privacy and other civil liberties issues, for his corporate leadership.

Tim Cook took the opportunity to paint a stark moral contrast between his company Apple and other firms.

“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. 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.”

Tim Cook’s speech may seem a little strange considering the 2014 celebrity nude photo leak of stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton from the company’s iCloud service.

Nevertheless, the company has received plenty of praise, other than in that scandal, about its encryption and security measures. For example, Wired called Apple’s iPhone encryption a “godsend,” explaining that it is now built into the system for iOS 8. Then there’s the critical fact that Apple’s business plan doesn’t revolve around selling or mining data for advertising purposes or as Cook explained it “we don’t just grab everything.”

Apple’s relatively good record not only landed Tim Cook the award from EPIC – he’s the first industry leader to be honored – but speaking time at President Obama’s Summit on Cybersecurity at Stanford. That event was notably snubbed by Mark Zuckerberg and other big names from the tech world.

But, don’t think that means Tim Cook will shy away from the privacy challenges stemming from the government.

“There’s another attack on our civil liberties that we see heating up every day — it’s the battle over encryption. Some in Washington are hoping to undermine the ability of ordinary citizens to encrypt their data. We think this is incredibly dangerous… Removing encryption tools from our products all together, 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.”

According to the Guardian, the government, specifically the Department of Justice, was particularly steamed over Apple’s iOS 8. The department explained that the automatic encryption services prevented them from getting into people’s smartphones (which is probably a good advertisement for the iPhone), and that put Apple’s customers “outside the law.”

Nevertheless, Tim Cook and Apple have stuck to their guns, and according to the speech they’ll stay like that.

“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. For years, we’ve offered encryption services like iMessage and FaceTime because we believe the contents of your text messages and your video chats is none of our business.”

The central theme of the night was that Cook believes companies need to provide the very best in both privacy and security, regardless of ad profits and pressure from law enforcement.

Tim Cook finished his speech saying, “ultimately, protecting someone else’s data protects all of us.”

[Image Credit: Getty Images]

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