The acceptance speech of Apple CEO Tim Cook left a lasting impression during the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) Champions of Freedom event held in Washington on Tuesday (June 2), when Cook was honored with an award for corporate leadership by the non-profit research center.
The ‘Champion of Freedom’ award recognizes those who have helped to “safeguard the right of privacy, promote open government and protect democratic values with courage and integrity,” according to EPIC’s website.
Cook’s remarks focused on the importance of protecting privacy, defending Apple’s right to encryption and ensuring security, demonstrating exactly how the CEO’s views fall in line with the honor he received.
"Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,” Cook stated. “We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it, morality demands it."
Though his remarks were delivered remotely, Cook remained “characteristically passionate” on all topics discussed, as reported in detail by TechCrunch.
While speaking on the actions of other companies who have “built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” Cook confirmed previous sentiments that Apple has no interest in its users’ data, a concern which has become more relevant as the support for Apple Pay continues to rise.
"We don’t think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost. This is especially true now that we’re storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices,” Cook said.
"We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is,” he added.
There was no question about Cook’s true feelings when he switched to the hot topic of encryption.
While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been standing firm against encryption, “every security researcher and logical human being on the planet understands that this is ridiculous. And Cook is one of them,” TechCrunch explained.
Cook described how the removal of encryption tools from Apple products would not only hurt those who rely on the company to protect their data, but may also have an unforeseen “chilling effect."
"Now, 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.
Although talking points from Cook’s speech continue to buzz throughout the media circuit, there are some who question his stance, especially when it comes to Apple’s competitors and their use of personal data.
In what The Verge’s Thomas Ricker is describing as “bringing a knife to a cloud fight,” Cook’s request for privacy rights, specifically in the form of comments seemingly directed at companies like Google and Facebook, are, in Ricker’s opinion, “an effort to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt."
"Cook and co. might truly believe it, but this is a thinly veiled lobbying effort to make us question the very business model of its competitors,” Ricker continued. “It’s not as in your face as Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign, but it’s undoubtedly a calculated message — Apple executives don’t shoot from the hip when speaking in public on the company’s behalf."
Whether seen as influential or cryptic (or both), Cook’s stance demonstrates the importance of earning — and keeping — customers’ trust when it comes to privacy and security.
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