Apple CEO Tim Cook Keeps Support for Unbreakable Encryption

  • Won't provide `back door' access for government investigators
  • Calls lawmakers' criticism of tax policy `political crap'

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook repeated his strong support for unbreakable encryption technology, despite criticism from global law enforcement agencies that believe the digital tools impede criminal and terrorism investigations.

In an interview with CBS Corp.’s "60 Minutes" that airs Dec. 20, Cook said weakening encryption tools so that government agencies can have "back door" access isn’t the answer to preventing attacks. The interview was conducted before the shootings in Paris, where the perpetrators are believed to have used encrypted messages to communicate; Cook said later the event didn’t change his opinion on the issue, according to CBS and interview excerpts provided by the show.

“There have been people that suggest that we should have a back door,” Cook said. “But the reality is if you put a back door in, that back door’s for everybody, for good guys and bad guys. 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.”

Following Edward Snowden’s revelations of government spying in 2013, U.S. technology companies have increased the use of encryption technology to prevent anyone but the recipient from seeing a message or any communication. This end-to-end encryption technology is so strong that even Apple can’t intercept a message.

Law enforcement officials including James Comey, the director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron have pushed for companies to provide ways for accessing communication between suspected criminals. Among the suggestions is that technology providers such as Apple would maintain a key that could be used to unlock any encrypted message if there’s a plausible threat. Cook and other privacy advocates have said the existence of such a key would only make it a tempting target for hackers and threaten users’ privacy.

Tax Policies

During the interview, Cook also defended Apple’s tax policies, which have been criticized by some members of Congress for keeping money generated outside the U.S. parked with foreign subsidiaries to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Cook said Apple pays more taxes than any other U.S. company and that it would "love to" repatriate the money if the 35 percent tax rate was changed. He called the criticism from lawmakers "political crap."

He said the tax code "was made for the industrial age, not for digital age. It’s backwards. It’s awful for America. It should have been fixed many years ago. It’s past time to get it done."

During the segment, Cook also will discuss the company’s manufacturing operations in China, and Chief Design Officer Jony Ive will provide a tour of the company’s design lab, according to CBS.

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