Apple CEO Tim Cook on Privacy: Follow the Money

Apple CEO Tim Cook has some advice for those concerned about privacy and your data: follow the money. In an interview with Charlie Rose posted to YouTube on Monday (embedded below the fold), Mr. Cook made an impassioned argument that Apple makes its profit from selling goods, rather than selling you.

Tim Cook on Charlie Rose

Tim Cook on Charlie Rose

Mr. Cook didn't name Google, Facebook, and the large number of other companies who have made you the product, but the message was clear: if a company (like Google, Facebook, and the large number of other companies who have made you the product) makes its money by collecting "gobs of personal information," you have a right to be worried.

These are important issues—at least in my opinion—and I am delighted to see Apple pushing the issue. Below is my transcript of Mr. Cook's comments:

We've taken a very different view of this than a lot of other companies. When we design a new service, we try not to collect data. So, we're not reading your email. We're not reading your iMessages. If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can't provide it. It's encrypted, and we don't own the key. The door is closed.

But our business, Charlie, is based on selling these [gestures at iPhones, Apple Watch]. Our business is not based on having information about you. You're not our product. Our products are these. And this watch. And Macs, and so forth.

We run a very different company. I think everyone has to ask: how do companies make their money. Follow the money. And if they're making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have the right to be worried. You should really understand what's happening to that data, and companies, I think, should be very transparent about it.

From our point of view, you can see what we're doing on the credit card thing. We don't want it. We're not in that business. I'm offended by lots of it. I think people have a right to privacy. I think that's going to be a very key topic over the next year or so, and we'll reach higher and higher levels of urgency as more and more incidents happen.

On the Snowden thing—to go long on that for just a moment—we wanted instantly to be totally transparent. There were rumors and things being written in the press that people had backdoors to our servers. None of that is true. Zero. We would never allow that to happen. They would have to cart us out in a box before we would do that.

If we ever give information—and we finally got agreement from the administration to release how many times we had national security orders on Apple—in a six month period—and we had to release a range because they wouldn't let us give out an exact number—it was between zero and 250.

This was just a snippet of the full interview, and the second part airs later on Monday.

The snippet: