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.)

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 Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applesecurity

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?