Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at last Friday's cybersecurity summit where he made a strong push to protect user privacy instead of handing over access to our digital worlds to the government. The event was orchestrated by the White House as a way to bring together tech industry leaders, academic experts, and government leaders to find a common ground for dealing with law enforcement and national security desires for easy access to our personal data.
Apple CEO Tim Cook defends privacy at government cybersecurity summit
No other big tech company CEOs were willing to take the stage and share their thoughts, but Mr. Cook didn't hesitate. He said, "Everyone has a right to privacy and security," making it clear he does not support the idea of giving government agencies back doors into our personal data.
Instead of creating new security threats that governments and hackers alike could exploit, Mr. Cook called for strong privacy and security measures to protect technology users. He said,
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. Fortunately, technology gives us the tools to avoid these risks, and it's my sincere hope that by using them and by working together, we will.
Apple has already taken steps to keep its customer's data safe from prying eyes by refusing to store our personal information in a way it can decipher. Text-based chats are encrypted, too, and Apple doesn't have the software keys needed to read their contents—those are held only by the conversation participants.
The White House, Department of Justice, FBI, and other agencies stand at odds with Apple's policies with claims that they need easy access to our files to solve crimes and protect us from terrorist threats.
Other CEOs such as Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Google's Larry Page, and Marissa Mayer from Yahoo! all declined to speak at the summit. Instead, they send other executives in their place, which was seen by some as a form of protest on their part. Instead of speaking in defense of maintaining our privacy, they chose silence as their platform.
"History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences. We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally," Mr. Cook added. "Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion, or love who they choose."
Mr. Cook's point was that giving up privacy doesn't bring us security, and history has shown that typically works out poorly.
It's clear Mr. Cook takes personal privacy and security very seriously, and is willingness to make a stand at last week's cybersecurity summit drove that point home. Words, however, are only the beginning of the fight. It's clear our government is pushing to erode that privacy in the name of security, and if successful we likely won't have either.
You can watch Mr. Cook's presentation online. His remarks begin at about 2:23:45.