Apple's Tim Cook Defends Encryption, Labor Practices In China - InformationWeek

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12/21/2015
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Apple's Tim Cook Defends Encryption, Labor Practices In China

Charlie Rose sat down with Tim Cook and other major players on the team at Apple for an in-depth look at the inner workings of the company during an interview on CBS's 60 Minutes.

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In what 60 Minutes called a "journey through the world's biggest and richest company," Charlie Rose spoke with Apple CEO Tim Cook and several members of the executive team. They covered topics ranging from taxes to terrorism.

As he has before, Cook again defended his refusal to allow government agencies access to consumers' encrypted messages, but noted the company is cooperating with authorities in other ways to combat terrorism.

"Here's the situation -- on your smartphone today, there's likely health information; there's financial information; there are intimate conversations with your family; there's probably business secrets," Cook said during the interview that aired Sunday, Dec. 20. "And you should probably have the ability to protect it. The only way we know how to do that is encrypt it. If there's a way to get in, somebody will find a way in."

Cook also expressed doubts about a so-called "back door," a surveillance term that would give government agencies -- and theoretically anyone smart enough to unlock it -- access to personal communications.

(Image: EdStock/iStockphoto)

(Image: EdStock/iStockphoto)

"There have been people that suggest that we should have a back door. But the reality is if you put a back door in, that back door's for everybody, for good guys and bad guys," Cook explained. "I don't believe that the trade-off here is privacy versus national security. I think that's an overly simplistic view. We're America. We should have both."

At the start of the interview Rose called Cook's leadership of the company, after he acceded to the CEO's post following the death of cofounder Steve Jobs, "one of the most challenging successions imaginable -- a daunting responsibility for the man he handpicked."

"I had never met anyone on the face of the planet like him before," Cook said of Jobs. "Not one. [Someone] who had this uncanny ability to see around the corner, who had this relentless, driving force for perfection."

Cook continued to testify to the unique genius that led to Apple's current position as the world's most valuable company.

"It's a bar of excellence that merely good isn't good enough. It has to be great -- as Steve used to say, insanely great," Cook said. "This is Steve's company. It is still Steve's company. It was born that way, it's still that way. I think his spirit will always be in the DNA of this company."

When Rose interviewed Apple design chief Jony Ive in the company's top secret product development studio, surrounded by grey blankets hiding the tops of work spaces, Ive affirmed the company's near-obsessive preoccupation with secrecy.

"We don't like people in this room, period," Ive said while trying to suppress a grin.

Indeed, later in the Cook interview, when he was asked about Apple's much-rumored Project Titan, thought to be an electric car, Cook laughed, noting, "One of the great things about Apple is probably we have more secrecy here than the CIA."

Cook also touched on the company's manufacturing presence in China, arguing it was a question of available skill sets, not cheap labor.

[Read about the myths and realities of the Steve Jobs movie.]

"I mean, you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we're currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields," Cook said.

In an excerpt released before the full interview of Sunday, Cook spoke about how Apple pays its taxes and defended the company against what some call tax dodging, especially its keeping large amounts of cash overseas.

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Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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