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September 16, 2014

Apple’s Tim Cook Talks Customer Privacy With Charlie Rose

Apple has a very different philosophy than most tech companies when it comes to the collection of customer data, CEO Tim Cook says.

Cook, in a wide-ranging interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose Monday night, said Apple’s business is not about having customer information, but about selling devices.

“When we design a new service, we try not to collect data. So we’re not reading your e-mail. We’re not reading your iMessage,” Cook said. “If the government laid a subpoena to get iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have a key. And so it’s sort of, the door is closed.”

Cook said it is important for consumers to be informed about the use of their data. He said the best way to do that is by following the money.

If companies are “making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried,” he added. “And you should really understand what’s happening to that data. And companies I think should be very transparent about it.”

The government, Cook said, was wrong in how it went about collecting data including trying to strong-arm tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo into handing over customers e-mails, texts and metadata information.

“I think it’s a tough balance,” he said. “And I don’t think that the country or the government’s found the right balance. I think they erred too much on the collect-everything side. And I think the president and the administration (are) committed to kind of moving that pendulum back.”

Unlike other tech companies, Apple, he said, was largely unaffected by National Security Agency requests for information because of its level of encryption.

Since whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed last summer the scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs, privacy has been a key issue for Americans, Cook said, adding that “we’ll reach higher and higher levels of urgency as more and more incidents happen.”

Once Snowden dropped his bomb, Apple knew it needed to be as transparent as possible to reassure customers, he said.

“What we wanted, was, we wanted instantly to be totally transparent because there were rumors and things being written in the press that people had backdoors to our servers. None of that is true, zero,” Cook said. “We would never allow that to happen. They would have to cart us out in a box before we would do that.

“It’s, if we ever get information, and we finally got an agreement from the administration to release how many times we had national security orders on Apple. And in a six month period, and we had to release a range, because they won’t let us say the exact number, it’s between zero and 250. That’s the lowest number you can quote. Zero to 250.”

To see the entire interview, in which Cook also discusses his company’s new product line-up, click here or see the video below.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.