Following Tim Cook’s speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, Facebook’s former security chief Alex Stamos called out Apple for what he perceives as the company’s hypocritical stance toward user privacy.
Apple has been very vocal about user privacy in recent years, particularly after former CIA employee Edward Snowden blew the lid off a notorious surveillance program in which the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, collected internet communications from various US internet companies.
Cook has been particularly aggressive against Facebook and Google, two companies that make a living monetizing user data. It must be noted that Cook has the luxury to do so since, unlike the two mentioned companies, Apple does not rely on data to make money.
“We at Apple can – and do – provide the very best to our users while treating their most personal data like the precious cargo that it is. And if we can do it, then everyone can do it,” he said at the conference.
Cook even went as far as likening the practices of data collection to surveillance:
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them. This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”
Stamos Hits Back
In a series of tweets, Stamos argued that Apple has made its share of privacy-compromising decisions. In the summer, Apple moved iCloud data storage centers for China-based users to China, namely, to Tianyi, the cloud storage arm of state-owned telco China Telecom.
“Come clean on how iCloud works in China and stop setting damaging precedents for how willing American companies will be to service the internal security desires of the Chinese Communist Party,” he wrote on the microblogging platform.
Stamos also called out Apple for removing a number of VPN apps from its China app store, applications that helped individuals browse anonymously and bypass the Great Firewall of China.