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Apple's Cook speaks out against public, private data harvesting policies

Source: EPIC

At the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Champions of Freedom event on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered an impassioned speech about public and private sector data collection, emphasizing consumers need data privacy, strong security and the right to encryption.

In his teleconferenced address, Cook, who was honored by EPIC for his work as a corporate leader, played the usual role of privacy advocate and railed against data collection efforts furthering the agendas of tech companies and government surveillance programs, reports TechCrunch.

"Like many of you, we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security," Cook said. "We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demands it, the Constitution demands it, morality demands it."

The remarks are congruous with Cook's staunch opposition of public and private data collection efforts, a position made clear during an interview with Charlie Rose last year. Apple's chief executive reasserted the need for consumer privacy and adequate data encryption in an open letter to customers, saying his company doesn't trade in customer information.

"I'm speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information," Cook said. "They're gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that's wrong. And it's not the kind of company that Apple wants to be."

Cook took the opportunity to call out Google's new Google Photos service, which is ostensibly free to use, but comes with provisions that ultimately turn customer data into a form of currency.

"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," Cook said. "And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is."

That last jab was lifted almost word-for-word from statements given to The Telegraph in February. At the time, Cook said consumers may not currently comprehend the implications of giving up their personal data, but believes "one day they will, and will be very offended."

On the topic of data encryption, Cook criticized government initiatives that would have services build security backdoors into existing encryption technologies like protections offered by iOS. He said the technique is analogous to hiding a key under your doormat; it's available to authorities if necessary, but burglars can find it too.

"Criminals are using every technology tool at their disposal to hack into people's accounts. If they know there's a key hidden somewhere, they won't stop until they find it," he said.

EPIC is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit research center that deals with data privacy and security concerns.