Apple CEO Tim Cook is likely to keep his promises on user privacy, said whistleblower and ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, commenting by video during a Wednesday conference in Barcelona, Spain. He cautioned however that people should be willing to abandon Apple if it backtracks.
"I think in the current situation, it doesn't matter if he's being honest or dishonest," Snowden told TechCrunch, responding to questions about whether Cook meant recent statements at an Electronic Privacy Information Center event. There the executive accused many companies of "gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it," claiming that such actions are "not the kind of company that Apple wants to be."
Snowden argued that what's important is that Cook has "obviously got a commercial incentive" to differentiate Apple from rivals like Google, and that the company's preference for pushing hardware over selling data benefits privacy, and is something the public should back for the time being.
He remarked that "a much bigger hammer" should fall on Apple if Cook reverses policies, since it would be a "betrayal of trust" and past promises. "But I would like to think that based on the leadership that Tim Cook has shown on this position so far, he's spoken very passionately about private issues, that we're going to see that continue and he'll keep those promises," Snowden concluded.
Since 2013 Snowden has leaked secrets about data collection conducted by the NSA and other intelligence agencies, which has often been wide-ranging, indiscriminate, and exploiting security gaps in modern computers and mobile devices. In many cases such agencies have had the cooperation — willing or unwilling — of major technology corporations such as AT&T, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Verizon.
Apple has denied being familiar with the NSA's PRISM program or providing direct access to servers. Documents released by Snowden show that PRISM began scooping up Apple data in October 2012, though perhaps not with the company's consent.