Apple CEO Says Silicon Valley’s Top Companies are Monetizing Your Private Data

Apple CEO Tim Cook has reiterated how his company values customer privacy more than other top companies in Silicon Valley, suggesting the likes of Google and Facebook are selling you out when you give them your data.

Cook made the comments at a dinner hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC, last night (via The Verge), where he was honoured as a “champion of freedom” for his leadership at Apple:

“Our privacy is being attacked on multiple fronts,” Cook said in a speech that he delivered remotely, according to EPIC. “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. 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 didn’t call out specific companies such as Google, Facebook or Yahoo, but he says when people use “free” services, it’s not worth it having “your family photos data-mined”, hinting at the recent Google Photos service, which aims to be the Gmail of photo storage:

“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,” Cook said. “And we think someday, customers will see this for what it is.”

Apple does have its own iAds platform, which allows companies to run ads within iOS apps; customers have the option of opting out of iAd tracking on their iOS devices (Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Limit Ad Tracking > OFF).

Last fall, Apple launched a new page on their website dedicating the company’s commitment to your privacy. Cook emphasized Apple makes money by selling great products and not by harvesting your data:

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

Cook similarly emphasized privacy on Charlie Rose last fall as well.

How willing are you to give up your personal data to use free services from the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter or Yahoo?