Tim Cook on Time Magazine

Tim Cook in Time Magazine on iPhone Encryption

The following is a excerpt from Tim Cook’s interview with Time Magazine (read the full transcript here) on the iPhone encryption issue:

You talk about public safety. Encryption is obviously incredibly valuable as a tool for preserving public safety. As against that, there’s a long an honorable tradition of law enforcement being able to get access to information that it needs to investigate crimes. And that also helps us with public safety. So you’re weighing one against the other, right? It’s not like it’s black and white. It’s you have to make a tradeoff. Or am I wrong in saying that?

COOK: Well, first of all, I don’t make the tradeoff. That’s the Congress’s job, to pass laws and so forth. But no, I don’t see it like that. I know everybody wants to paint it as privacy versus security, as if you can give up one and get more of the other. I think it’s very simplistic and incorrect. I don’t see it that way at all.

Because the reality is that if you—let’s say you just pulled encryption. Let’s ban it. Let’s you and I ban it tomorrow. And so we sit in Congress and we say, thou shalt not have encryption. What happens then? Well, I would argue that the bad guys will use encryption from non-American companies, because they’re pretty smart and encryption isn’t—I don’t own encryption, Apple doesn’t own encryption. Encryption, as you know, is everywhere. In fact some of encryption is funded by our government. Some of the best encryption is funded by the government. But you’ll see encryption coming out of most countries in the world.

So if you’re worried about messaging, which I think is primarily the worry in this scenario, people will just move to something else. You know if you legislate against Facebook and Apple and Google and whatever else in the US, they’ll just use something else. So are we really safer then? I would say no. I would say we’re less safe, because now we’ve opened up all of the infrastructure for people to go wacko at.

You’ve already seen people hitting the U.S. government—they pulled twenty million peoples’ information out from Social Security, their thumbprints and everything else. You see people going after private companies. You see people going after consumers. So the reality of today from a cyber security point of view—I think some of the top people predict that the next big war is fought on cyber security.

So you want to have an unbelievable defense. You probably want to have an offense too, but that’s somebody else’s job, to worry about that. So the act of banning or limiting or putting a back door in—a back door is any vulnerability that if I can get in, that means somebody else can. We look at it pretty simply as, we want to encrypt end to end. And if you guys are sending a message to each other, you have the ability to read it by putting your passcode in and decrypting it. Nancy has the ability to read it, but nobody else does.

So it’s just a simple thing. We don’t feel like we should be in the middle of that. I’m the FedEx guy. I’m taking your package and I’m delivering it. I just do it like this. My job isn’t to open it up, make a copy of it, put it over in my cabinet in case somebody later wants to come say, I’d like to see your messages. That’s not a role that I play. It’s not a role that I think I should play. And it’s certainly not a role I think you want me to play. I don’t think so, anyway. I don’t feel like the storage compartment for trillions of messages. And I’m not saying that from a cost point of view or anything else, I’m saying it from an ethics and values point of view. You don’t want me to hold all that stuff, right? I think you guys should have a reasonable expectation that your communication is private.

I couldn’t agree more with Apple, Tim Cook, and the other companies standing with Apple on this topic, those against this stance I fell are missing the way encryption and software security works, making a master key for iPhone’s means hacker can and would eventually get this key.

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