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Apple CEO Tim Cook did not mince words during his commencement speech at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., on June 16, reports CNBC. The American business executive spoke to Stanford’s outgoing seniors on Sunday, addressing the downside of Silicon Valley and imploring tech companies to take responsibility for “chaos” they create—all while in Silicon Valley’s backyard.
Ever the businessman, Cook did not mention any companies by name, but he did bring up data breaches, privacy violations, and Elizabeth Holmes’ disgraced startup Theranos, which became defunct in September 2018.
During the widely covered commencement speech, Cook said, “Lately it seems this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation – the belief you can claim credit without accepting responsibility.”
The industrial engineer continued, “We see it everyday now with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech, fake news poisoning our national conversation, the false miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood.”
The impassioned exec, who previously served as Apple’s chief operating officer under its late co-founder Steve Jobs, said “It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this, but if you built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos.”
This is not the first time in recent days that Cook has gone public on his views regarding data security and the responsibility or lack of it by the tech companies. In a series of speeches, Cook has publicly criticized Google, Facebook, and other tech companies for how they have dealt with user data and privacy—except he’s done so without actually naming the companies.
Apple has been clear that one of its key iPhone features is the privacy it affords, recently offering a privacy-focused sign-on feature, which competes with Google and Facebook.
Playing it smart, Cook also spoke to the Stanford soon-to-be grads, many of whom will likely go on to score Silicon Valley jobs, about the negative impact of “digital surveillance,” which he says threaten innovation. He also says that the act would have destroyed Silicon Valley before it even started.
Cook said, “If we accept it as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold and even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human.”
This is one of many speeches, Cook has given, speaking out about tech companies.
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In January, Cook called for a Federal Trade Commission“clearinghouse” so that people could track and delete the personal data that was stored by companies.
In October 2018, Cook took jabs at Silicon Valley tech companies misusing user privacy during a keynote address at a privacy conference in Brussels, Belgium. Cook said that personal information is being “weaponized against us with military efficiency.”
He added, “Every day, billions of dollars change hands, and countless decisions are made, on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, our relationships and conversations. Our wishes and fears, our hopes and dreams.”
At the 2018 conference, he said, “These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded, and sold.”
“Your profile is then run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions,” Cook said at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC).