Apple’s Tim Cook Skewers Those Who Don’t Protect Privacy

Apple AAPL +0.49% chief executive Tim Cook delivered a fiery speech at a White House summit on cybersecurity Friday, hammering those he said compromise the right to privacy and security of people around the world.

The speech sent a jolt through the summit, which up until Cook’s speech had consisted of pledges from government officials and business executives to work more closely together to stop breaches.

When Cook took the stage at Stanford University, he mentioned several initiatives Apple was working on to make federal payments more secure. But then he shifted quickly to a critique of unspecified parties that don’t do enough to protect privacy. He didn’t mention the U.S. government or any federal agency by name, but his comments reflected the anger many technology executives share about the U.S. government’s data collection practices and spying.

“If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money,” he said. “We risk our way of life.”

“We must get this right,” he said. “History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences. We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion, or express their opinion, or love who they choose.”

Many people, he said, live “in a world in which that information can make the difference between life and death.”

He did pledge to work more closely with the White House and Congress to improve data security, though he stopped short of saying what that cooperation might entail.