During a commencement speech delivered over the weekend at Duke University, Cook spoke at length about Apple’s commitment to protecting user privacy and took a dig at those who trade in those rights for greater financial success. Without naming names, it soon became clear that Apple’s CEO was indirectly aiming jabs at Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) Google and Facebook Inc. (FB), both of which collect personal data to target ads.
"We reject the notion that getting the most out of technology means trading away your right to privacy, so we choose a different path: collecting as little of your data as possible, and being thoughtful and respectful when it's in our care. Because we know it belongs to you,” he said.
This isn’t the first time that Cook, who previously described data privacy as a human right and a civil liberty, has criticized the practices of internet companies. In March, Apple’s CEO divulged his thoughts on Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw personal information from millions of the social network’s users improperly accessed.
Recode and MSNBC asked Cook how he would have handled the situation if he was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He responded that he “wouldn’t be in this situation” and urged regulators to limit how Facebook and others companies use customer data. (See also: Zuckerberg, Cook Continue to Insult Each Other.)
During the rest of his speech, Cook pleaded with students in attendance to reject the status quo and be fearless.
"Fearless like the students of Parkland, Florida, who refuse to be silent about the epidemic of gun violence and have rallied millions to their cause," he said. "Fearless like the women who say ‘metoo’ and ‘Time’s Up.’ Women who cast light into dark places and move us to a more just and equal future. Fearless like those who fight for the rights of immigrants, who understand that our only hope for the future is one that embraces all who want to contribute."
Cook received his Master of Business Administration from Duke's Fuqua School of Business 30 years ago in 1988. He joined the university's board of trustees in 2015. (See also: Data Furor Show's Apple's Competitive Edge: UBS.)