Apple's CEO Tim Cook gave a rare two-part televised interview (easily available online) to Charlie Rose this week, discussing everything fromthe company's commitment to diversity “with a capital D” to its successful growth in the Chinese consumer market.
But, arguably, the most attention is being paid to Cook's statements regarding Apple's privacy policies.
The company got some bad publicity (to put it mildly) earlier this month, when hackers managed to steal the private photos of over 100 celebrities who'd thought their images were safely stored in the iCloud (or even safely deleted, in some instances).
But Cook assured Charlie Rose that the company is committed to privacy, and most assuredly is not in the business of collecting or selling people's personal information. AppleInsider put it this way:
Among the wide-ranging topics, Cook said Apple's business is not based on gathering consumer information, as with other companies like Google, but selling products like the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
"Our business is not based on having information about you. You're not our product," Cook said, adding, "Our product are these, and this watch, and Macs and so forth. And so we run a very different company. I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? Follow the money. And if they're making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried."
Cook also discussed heavier topics, including the mass, warrantless, U.S. government surveillance of its citizens, and other revelations exposed by former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying that he doesn't think the government has struck the right balance between security concerns on the one hand, and individual privacy and civil-liberty concerns on the other:
"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 [U.S.] president and the [Obama] administration is committed to kind of moving that pendulum back.
However, you don’t want... it’s probably not right to not do anything. And so I think it’s a careful line to walk. You want to make sure you’re protecting American people. But... there’s no reason to collect information on you. But people are 99.99 percent of other people."
For Apple users who are not reassured by Cook's pro-privacy statements, bear in mind: it's possible that Cook and other Apple executives are legally forbidden to say anything more. Consider: last December, when news broke that the NSA allegedly has complete (secret) access to people's iPhones and any data therein, Apple executives indignantly denied all claims of helping NSA spy on its customers.
Maybe they were telling the truth — or maybe they were being forced to lie about what they were doing. That's exactly what happened to Yahoo, after all: just last week, news broke that in 2008, the government ordered Yahoo to turn over massive amounts of confidential data on its users, and if Yahoo didn't comply, the company would initially be fined $250,000 per day, with the amount set to double every week: $500,000 per day for the second week, a million a day for the third, then two million, then four million …. why are Americans in late-2014 only now learning about a surveillance program dating back seven years? Because until last week, the government would not allow Yahoo to inform anybody about its spying-on-government-orders activities.
Not that Yahoo is the only company forced to operate under a gag order. Last May, Apple made headlines (alongside other tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft and Google), for its courtroom attempts to fight various government-imposed “gag orders” about its legally mandated spying activities.
Nothing's happened yet, though, so if Apple or other companies are collecting your data, well, they're pretty much obligated to lie to you about it, on pain of incurring the full wrath of the U.S. government. Bear in mind that on Sept. 12, a federal spy court renewed the program granting the NSA the right to collect all Americans' electronic "metadata" without any warrants.