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Tim Cook takes shots at Google, NSA during speech on privacy and encryption

Oscar Raymundo | June 4, 2015
Tim Cook believes Apple has a moral obligation to protect its users' privacy, and he'll got to any lengths to let you know it--even if it means taking shots at fellow Silicon Valley power players like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo.

"You might like these so-called free services, but we don't think they're worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose," Cook continued. "And we think someday, customers will see this for what it is."

After U.K. newspaper The Register addressed similar concerns over Google Photos, a Google spokesperson issues this statement: "Google Photos will not use images or videos uploaded onto Google Photos commercially for any promotional purposes, unless we ask for the user's explicit permission."

Cook's EPIC speech this week echoed the statements he gave to Charlie Rose last year about Apple's approach to storing user data. "You're not our product," Cook said on the show. 

The Apple CEO, however, has not yet publicly addressed the role of Apple's own online advertising platform iAds, which targets advertisements based on tracking of user activity across iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs. Furthermore, advertisers can serve up ads on iTunes Radio by anonymously cross-referencing Apple users' email addresses and telephone numbers against their own data. The Verge pointed out a helpful way for Apple users to opt out of "interest-based" ad tracking and targeting.

Weakening encryption against First Amendment

During his EPIC speech, Cook was adamant about his opposition to creating a secret "backdoor" key that would allow government agencies to bypass iOS's built-in encryption and tap into iPhones.

"We have a deep respect for law enforcement, and we work together with them in many areas, but on this issue we disagree. 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."

Cook said that Apple has been offering encryption tools on iOS devices and products for years and that removing them now — as some government agencies have suggested — would be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

"If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too," he said. "Criminals are using every technology tool at their disposal to hack into people's accounts. If they know there's a key hidden somewhere, they won't stop until they find it... We shouldn't ask our customers to make a tradeoff between privacy and security. We need to offer them the best of both."


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