Apple CEO Tim Cook champions privacy, blasts ‘so-called free services’

“Apple CEO Tim Cook has made no secret of his disdain for online services that ask you to trade highly personal data for convenience — a trade that describes most big advertising-supported technology companies,” Casey Newton reports for The Verge. “But last night, in some of his strongest comments to date, Cook said the erosion of privacy represents a threat to the American way of life. Cook spoke at a dinner in Washington, DC, hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which honored him 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,'” Newton reports. “Cook’s comments appeared to be directed at companies including Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, which offer advertisers platform for targeting their users with increasing sophistication.”

“Cook also made what sounded like an oblique reference to the new Google Photos, questioning whether Google would ultimately use it for ad targeting. (It currently does not, and Google says it has no plans to),” Newton reports. “‘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.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: 1. Cook is right, and 2. He’s sounds like he’s already seeing a significant drop-off as customers switch from Apple’s iCloud Photo Library ($9.99-$19.99 per month for usable storage levels) to Google’s free Photos.

We believe that Google will eventually monetize their “free” image data gathering operation. For example:

• She looked good in 2005. Height estimate: 5′ 4″. Weight estimate: 110 lbs. In 2015, she’s up to an estimated 150 lbs. Serve up those Weight Watchers ads!

• The wedding photos were nice. June 7th, 2003. But, the photos of them together ended in 2014. He’s not consistently been with anyone significant since then. Serve up the dating ads!

• The post-chemo photos started in January 2008. They ended that same year. Now, they’re back and it’s looking worse than ever. Serve up the funeral parlor ads! (And start emailing the kids about how easy it is to transfer their mom’s Google Photos library to their devices – for FREE, of course.)

Ah, the price of “free.”


Passing on Google Photos for iOS: Read the fine print before you sign up for Google’s new Photos service – June 1, 2015
Why Apple’s Photos beats Google Photos, despite price and shortcomings – May 30, 2015
Is Apple is losing the photo wars? – May 29, 2015
How Google aims to delve deeper into users’ lives – May 29, 2015
Apple CEO Cook: Unlike some other companies, Apple won’t invade your right to privacy – March 2, 2015
Survey: People trust U.S. NSA more than Google – October 29, 2014
Apple CEO Tim Cook ups privacy to new level, takes direct swipe at Google – September 18, 2014
Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for government, police – even with search warrants – September 18, 2014
U.S. NSA watching, tracking phone users with Google Maps – January 28, 2014
U.S. NSA secretly infiltrated Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say – October 30, 2013
Google has already inserted some U.S. NSA code into Android – July 10, 2013
Court rules NSA doesn’t have to reveal its semi-secret relationship with Google – May 22, 2013
Edward Snowden’s privacy tips: ‘Get rid of Dropbox,” avoid Facebook and Google – October 13, 2014


  1. Then there is all the meta-data that is attached to the photos you upload (date/time, type camera, type lens, type phone, coordinates) which can all be used to establish your spending habits (shop, eat, vacation, etc) and income level for fine tuning the targeted ads as well as be mined by any number of governments, agencies and agents, which can be used against you and not just in a court of law.

  2. When asked a spokesperson for Goggle said “Google Photos will not use images or videos uploaded onto Google Photos for any promotional purposes, unless we ask for the user’s explicit permission.” Note the weasel wording. They will use it, just not “for promotional purposes.” Yes, they are weasels…

  3. Have you been ‘Googled’?

    ‘Googled’ once meant to find relevant information through a search of web pages using the Google search engine by the user.

    ‘Googled’ now means to have all personal user data mined, as a result of Google web searches or use of Google apps, and be targeted by ads relevant to the personal information gleaned through such searches and use of apps, and have such information sold to 3rd parties.

    If you use Google search or apps, you’ve been ‘Googled’!

    You’re not using Google.
    Google is using you.


    1. You don’t have to use Google products to be Googled, you just have to associate with others who do. Anyone who uses Google Photos and identifies you and your kids and all the people in their photos to make searching their photos later easier has given Google all they need to use facial identification to find you and yours in any other photo from any source.

      You have also been “Facebooked”!

      1. Well, I have a word that will cover being googled and facebooked.. You are being f@&$ed!
        I agree with ET, I have to be careful when ever my friends (mostly the woman’s portion of friends) take pictures because those pics go directly from the phone to Facebook will all the location information.
        Then your face is being recognized by their software (because your “friends” have been talking about you) and they look for you and information regarding you all over the internet until they find you and find a way to send you and invitation to join to the dark side.

      2. @ET: Yes, you’re correct about the “association problem” with those who use Google services. A few days ago on MDN we were discussing this very point, so I’ve copied & pasted here:

        If you’re using Google services you should know that:

        — When you perform a search using Google, the text string of your query as well as the URLs you subsequently click are recorded. All of them. Every. Single. Time.

        — If you have any non-Gmail email account (including your own domain-based email account), are you aware what happens when you reply to anyone who sends an email message to you from their Gmail account? That’s right, the text in the originating message as well as the text in YOUR message are auto-scanned and analyzed upon passing through the Gmail servers. The results are added to your Google profile that is indexed under your own email address, and then utilized for ad profiling and and any other marketing purposes they see fit to use.

        — Contacts stored in a Gmail account are used for profiling and association with Google-indexed accounts (including non-Gmail accounts).

        — The videos you watch on YouTube are also added to your profile.

        — Let’s be clear: Even if you don’t have a Gmail account, you have a Google profile from using Google search, watching YouTube, or exchanging an email with someone who uses a Gmail account.

        — All of this information is retained forever by Google.

        None of this is paranoid conspiracy theory; it’s simply the way Google does business. And the overwhelming majority of people worldwide seem to have gladly accepted it.

  4. Consumers simply love “free” stuff. Google offers and consumers jump on it. That’s not Google’s fault. Wall Street loves the idea because it quickly increases market share for a company and that’s what investors seem to like. On the other hand, Apple tries to best monetize their services from the start and although Apple makes money, Wall Street criticizes Apple for not getting enough market share. Wall Street always has this idea that when a company has major market share, they’ll eventually be able to monetize their services and huge profits will roll in.

    However, I think those consumers looking for freebies will balk if they eventually have to pay. Google has to find ways to monetize by invading privacy and that’s becoming quite risky. Apple needs to stir up the consumer to be aware that Google will use their data. That’s definitely something Apple can lobby against, invasion of privacy.

    Meanwhile, the news media will be gleefully supporting free Google Photos against Apple’s “costly” iCloud Photo Library and, of course, Google will come out looking like the big winner and Apple will become the Evil Empire.

      1. I think you missed magnificent 7’s point… He is simply expressing the misguided love of wall street for market share… And its bewildering hammering of Apple despite its focus on quality and real revenue.

  5. I honestly don’t think Apple is worried that users might switch to Google’s services. Sure, Apple wants to provide a great service to their customers, but this a back and forth game and photo libraries can be huge. People aren’t generally going to up and switch from one service to another because of a few features. Most will stick with their current work flow.

    I don’t use iCloud for data storage except syncing purposes, so the free storage limit doesn’t bother me. Of course, I have an iMac that I keep all my data on, but I do understand that there’s a lot of people out there who don’t and probably need the “cloud” (then again there’s probably a lot more who don’t use anything at all and never back up their iPhone or iPad).

    Personally I believe, as Apple brings more and more data centers online, their free cloud storage limits will increase as will the capabilities of all its services.

    People tend to forget that Apple is still fairly new to all of this; 5 years ago they had only one data center located in Newark, CA and it was a fairly small facility.

    Over the past 5 years they’ve managed to expand by an order of magnitude, probably more so than any other company;

    1. Maiden, NC
    2. Prineville, OR
    3. Reno, NV
    4. Mesa, AZ (under construction)
    5. Hong Kong
    6. Mainland China (joint partnership with China Telecom)
    7. Ireland (planned)
    8. Denmark (planned)

  6. There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch- someone always pays.

    Likewise, if you are not paying for it online you are the product. This week it was announced that Instagram is about to be flooded with ads in case you did not know.

    I feel the same way about paying for content as I do about buying music: music worth listening to is worth buying and online services worth having cost something.

    The choices are essentially these:
    1- Pay for it
    2- Be data mined and sold for profit
    3- Be assaulted with a blizzard of ads
    4- Some combination of the options above.

    My preference is to be as ad free as possible- I have no objection to paying for stuff. Your mileage may vary.

  7. Furthermore, I’d like to say, I actually don’t have a problem with Google data mining and profiling their users – those people agreed to it in order to use a free service. What do I care? I just stay away from it all.

    That collecting of data will allow them to offer features and services that Apple will possibly never be able to match simply because they don’t have access to the data – it’s encrypted by the end user.

    1. Google has prediction tools. Let’s say Google and their “partners” determine that you are recently divorced, have cancer and just lost your job. What are the chances that you will break some laws like sell illegal drugs or rob a bank? Everywhere time you step outside your home you will be watched like a hawk. Good luck getting a drink at the local bar because if you drive a vehicle you will be stopped and harassed. Maybe one day it will be determined that you are too much of a risk and just be eliminated by any number of “subtle” methods.

  8. It is great to see this issue brought to the forefront because ultimately it is THE differentiator between Apple ecosystem and google ecosystem. MDN take is spot on. Great to see the agreement in the forum.
    The next battle is home automation- and who do you want to bring into your living room, kitchen and personal space? Who do you want knowing when you wake, eat, leave and return home etc?…

  9. And, if you recall, they said the same thing when they bought Nest. “We have no plans to change any way that Nest collects user information, and the use of that data will be the same as it was when Nest was a stand alone company.” Then a few months later Google announced that they were going to integrate all of the data from every Nest user into their overall user data management schemes.

    Sure, they won’t use your photo or video imagery — until they decide to do so. Which, given Google’s past history, will likely be within the next year or so.

  10. Google SAYS in its privacy policy regarding all their photo services that they might use the data they gather from your uploads etc for advertizing purposes. What more do they need to say to PROVE they will violate your privacy. NOTHING is new with that, just more pervasive.

  11. Maybe Apple should just make most services free. It’s not like they need the cash, right? That would drive a big wedge in other free services. So Apple, put up or shut up. We all know your love of cash.

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