Tim Cook Defends Encryption on Smartphones

Apple's CEO explains why giving government a back door to data is a bad idea.

ByABC News
December 21, 2015, 10:08 AM

— -- Following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the tech community is at odds over giving the government access to encrypted information on smartphones. Apple CEO Tim Cook said he's standing firm on his company's decision to protect user privacy in a new interview.

"I don't believe that the tradeoff here is privacy versus national security," Cook said in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday night. "I think that's an overly simplistic view. We're America. We should have both."

Apple, Google and a litany of other technology companies have publicly asked the government to stay out of encrypted data in computers and mobile devices -- or risk undermining information security.

While "60 Minutes" reported Cook is committed to working with authorities to help combat terrorism, he's resolute about making sure the government isn't given a backdoor into smartphones.

"There's likely health information, there's financial information" on your smartphone, Cook said. "There are intimate conversations with your family, or your co-workers. There's probably business secrets and you should have the ability to protect it. And the only way we know how to do that, is to encrypt it."

"Why is that? It's because if there's a way to get in, then somebody will find the way in," he continued. "There have been people that suggest that we should have a back door. But the reality is if you put a back door in, that back door's for everybody, for good guys and bad guys."

Cook was interviewed before the Paris attacks, according to CBS, but his position has not changed. The encryption issue was addressed in the last GOP debate as candidates discussed whether digital locks have become a hindrance to targeting potential terrorists.

Carly Fiorina said she could get Silicon Valley to work with the government if elected president because she "knows them." Calling out Twitter, Snapchat and "all the rest of it" that "has only been around a couple years," Fiorina said government policy has not kept up with new technologies.

"They need to be asked to bring the best and brightest and the most recent technology to the table," she said.

Apple announced last year that it would turn on encryption for iOS 8 by default, meaning law enforcement would need a person's passcode to access any data on an iPhone. Google's Android Lollipop also offers users the chance to opt-in to encrypt their data.