Tuesday 25 October 2016

Apple's Tim Cook attacks tech rivals that mine and sell personal data

Rhiannon Williams

Published 03/06/2015 | 14:53

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has heavily criticised tech companies which attempt to monetise customer data for advertising purposes, saying such a trade comes at "a very high cost".

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While Cook did not explicitly identify the companies, his assertion that some of Silicon Valley's most prominent and successful companies "have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information" can be read as referring to Facebook and Google, who use targeted advertising and store vast amounts of user data.

Speaking by video link during EPIC’s Champions of Freedom event in Washington upon being honoured by the research centre for corporate leadership, Cook said he and his team at Apple firmly believed customers should not have to compromise between privacy and security.

“We can, and we must provide both in equal measure," he said. "We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it.”

“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 monetise it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

Tim Cook believes weakening or removing encryption will harm good citizens

Google launched its new Google Photos product at its annual I/O developers conference last week, which offers customers unlimited photo storage for free. The app organises images by person, subject, place or date, using advanced facial and landmark recognition technology.

“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," Cook continued. "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.”

Cook has spoken extensively and passionately about the need for data encryption and right to privacy in the past, telling The Telegraph earlier this year that it is a basic human right.

“None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information," he said in February. "This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn't give it up. We shouldn't give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details.”

Cook went on to defend the continued use of cryptography to protect sensitive data, in the wake of Homeland Security's assertions that encryption makes it harder for the government to crack down on criminal and terrorist activity.

“Now, we have a deep respect for law enforcement, and we work together with them in many areas, but on this issue we disagree," he said. "So let me be crystal clear — weakening encryption, or taking it away, 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.”

The chief executive said in February that terrorists themselves will encrypt, and should Apple fail to encrypt: "the people we affect [by cracking down on privacy] are the good people. They are the 99.999pc of people who are good.”


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