Apple CEO makes stinging attack on Silicon Valley’s attitude to data privacy

3 Jun 201531 Shares

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Tim Cook said he rejects the collection of consumers' personal data just to sell ads and services

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Apple CEO Tim Cook yesterday launched a stinging attack on the attitudes to data collection and privacy among Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies like Google and Facebook, accusing them of taking advantage of consumers’ confusion about privacy for their own gain.

As he was being honoured for “corporate leadership” at an Electronic Private Information Centre (EPIC) Champions of Freedom event in Washington, Cook got to the point: “Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make trade-offs between privacy and security.

“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.”

Cook, who was addressing the Washington event by video link, made it clear that he believes collecting information about everything consumers do in order to sell advertising to them is morally reprehensible.

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

“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.”

According to TechCrunch, Cook said he doesn’t believe consumers need to trade their data for a service they think is free, especially now that people are storing data about health, finance and homes on 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 also hit out at attempts in Washington to prevent consumers even being able to encrypt their own data.

“We think this is incredibly dangerous,” Cook 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. 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.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com