Apple's Tim Cook warns that sacrificing privacy 'risks our way of life'

Apple's chief believes the personal impact of security breaches can be devastating

Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. (Screenshot from live Web conference.)
Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. (Screenshot from live Web conference.)
  • Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. (Screenshot from live Web conference.)
  • Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. (Screenshot from live Web conference.)
  • Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. (Screenshot from live Web conference.)
  • Tim Cook speaks at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. (Screenshot from live Web conference.)
View all images

Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned of "dire consequences" if tech companies can't protect the privacy of those who use their products.

Giving up our privacy to digital technologies exposes us to greater risks than just identity theft and financial losses -- serious though those things are, Cook said in a brief speech at a cybersecurity summit in Silicon Valley on Friday.

"History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences," Cook said.

"We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion or love who they choose -- or love who they choose," he repeated for emphasis, "in a world in which that information can make the difference between life or death."

He may have been alluding to oppressive regimes that punish citizens for political beliefs or their sexual orientation. But speaking to an audience that includes U.S. policy makers, Cook's remarks are also a reminder of the government's need to protect privacy as it conducts its digital surveillance campaigns.

"If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money. We risk our way of life," he said.

Cook spoke at a summit convened by the White House, where President Barack Obama was expected to sign an executive order later Friday making it easier for the government to share sensitive information about cyberthreats with the private sector.

Google, Microsoft and other big tech companies sent representatives to the summit, but Apple was the only one that sent its CEO, possibly reflecting divisions between Silicon Valley and the U.S. government over its surveillance programs.

Cook spoke for only 12 minutes but crammed a lot in. He took a jab at companies like Google and Facebook whose business models are based largely on personal data they collect about their users.

"We have a business model that focuses on selling the best products and services in the world, not on selling your personal data," Cook said.

Apple's products are built with security in mind from their inception, he said.

Still, Apple has been far from perfect in protecting privacy. Its iCloud service was hacked last year and nude photographs of dozens of celebrities were stolen and posted on the Internet. Apple had to strengthen its security afterwards to try to prevent a repeat.

Cook also plugged Apple Pay, which he presented as a more secure alternative to debit cards. Starting in September, he said, people will be able to use the mobile payment service for certain federal government transactions, like gaining access to national parks.

"We can imagine a day in the not distant future when the wallet becomes a remnant of the past," Cook said.

Until then, the threat of identity theft and financial crimes remains very real. "The personal impact of these security breaches can be devastating," Cook said.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Creating the ultimate customer-centric environment in 2018

All businesses today that are serious about being successful have adopted a customer-centric environment.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Embrace customer obsession to transform marketing into a catalyst for growth

In 2018, Forrester believes 20 per cent of CEOs globally will fail to act on digital transformation and put their firms at risk.

Michael Barnes

VP research director, Forrester

How challenger brands can win at biddable media

Challenger brands, especially in highly competitive markets, generally can’t match established players for media spend.

Chris Pittham

Managing director, Jaywing

While a lot has been said about AI and machine learning, I don't see it put to extensive use as yet. I will be happy to have it help the ...

Atul Dhakappa

Predictions: 8 digital marketing trends for 2018

Read more

Wowww! What A Awsome Blog! Thanks for this wonderful post I really got many valuable information through it. As a learner it's not so eas...

Mia Joseph

Predictions: 8 digital marketing trends for 2018

Read more

What you have said about AI, machine learning and voice activation is very true. Some of the other things we are already observing is the...

Atul Dhakappa

Predictions: 8 digital marketing trends for 2018

Read more

Yes, Digital Marketing now getting growth at the higher level. we can't predict today trends in the digital world. Nice stuff! Thanks for...

lorenso

Predictions: 8 digital marketing trends for 2018

Read more

I believe Digital Marketing is moving more toward social media and influential marketing. People are trying to grow their influence as in...

Rachel Kieran

Predictions: 8 digital marketing trends for 2018

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in