Apple boss Tim Cook slams Google and Facebook for selling users’ data

Cook said many of his competitors were ‘lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information’

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 04 June 2015 10:04 BST
Tim Cook promises to shake up the keynote speakers at WWDC this year
Tim Cook promises to shake up the keynote speakers at WWDC this year (Getty Images)

Tim Cook has called out many of his biggest competitors, like Google and Facebook, which he says are tricking people into giving up their data.

Apple’s CEO gave an impassioned defence of privacy, security and encryption during a speech at an award event.

“Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,” Cook began, reports Techcrunch. “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.”

While he didn’t explicitly name of any of Apple’s competitors during the speech, he did say that “some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information”.

“They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it,” he said at the event held by EPIC, a research centre. “We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

Cook has repeatedly look to differentiate Apple from its competitors like Google and Facebook — where, he has said, users don’t pay for products and therefore become the products themselves. Apple, he said, does “not share information with advertisers that personally identifies you, unless you gave us permission”.

Companies like Google use the data generated from the people on their services to generate revenues and fund their maintenance. By collecting information about what people are searching for, for instance, the company is able to display more relevant ads.

The policy has allowed Google to make almost all of its biggest consumer services free. Its recently announced Photos app, for instance, gives people as much space as they want to store their images in the cloud — whereas Apple’s is limited and users must pay for access.

Tim Cook seemed partly to be responding directly to Google’s recent announcement. “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,” he said.

Cook also argued that American citizens have a right to encrypt their data, and in so doing keep it from inspection by law enforcement officials. Apple and over 140 other tech firms including Google signed a letter to Barack Obama last month, asking him not to force them to hand over user data.

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

Such a restriction inevitably hits the good people, since terrorists and others will be able to hide their information anyway, he said.

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