Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken out against security technology “back doors” designed to allow government surveillance bodies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) to look at user data.
It comes shortly after Jimmy Wales blasted prime minister David Cameron and his approach to surveillence in the UK as “moronic and stupid”.
Cook made his comments at the Wall Street Journal Digital Live technology conference in Laguna Beach, California. He spoke within hours of NSA director Admiral Michael Rogers appearing on the very same stage.
“We’ve said that no back door is a must, and we’ve said that encryption is a must,” Cook said when asked about his stance of privacy.
The US government says that it needs to know what people are doing online in order to protect citizens, but Cook argued that if the government is able to exploit back doors, then cyber criminals and other malicious parties will also be able crack them and take advantage of having access to that data.
“You can’t have a back door in the software because you can’t have a back door that’s only for the good guys,” he said.
“You’re saying, ‘They’re good, so it’s okay for them to know’,” Cook continued, adding “But that’s not the state of today. If someone can get into data, it is subject to great abuse.”
Speaking in a previous session at the WSJ conference, NSA director Admiral Michael Rogers argued that “strong encryption is in our nation’s best interests.”
“Security, encryption: good. The ability to generate insights as to criminal behaviour and threats to our nation’s security, also good,” he said.
However, Cook argued that privacy and security doesn’t have to be a matter of either-or – rather both can coexist.
“Nobody should have to decide between privacy and security. We should be smart enough to do both,” he said, describing any sort of compromise between the two as a “cop-out”.
“Both of these things were essential parts of our Constitution. It didn’t say prioritise this one above all of these,” said Cook, who argued that privacy is only going to become more important in future.
“It will become increasingly more important to more and more people over time as they realise that intimate parts of their lives are in the open and being used for all sorts of things,” he said.
However, Rogers argued that the ability for the government to examine users web communications was necessary: “It’s only a matter of time I believe until someone does something destructive,” he said, arguing that ISIS could use cyber attacks as a “weapons system”.
It isn’t the first time Rogers has warned of a massive cyber attack.
“We are in a world now where, despite your best efforts, you must prepare and assume that you will be penetrated,” he said, speaking in London earlier this year “It is not about if you will be penetrated, but when”.