Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned that there will be "dire consequences" if UK cyber spies are given powers to access the encrypted communications of the public.
“You can just look around and see all the data breaches that are going on. These things are becoming more frequent,” Cook said.
“They can not only result in privacy breaches but also security issues. We believe very strongly in end-to-end encryption and no back doors. We don’t think people want us to read their messages. We don’t feel we have the right to read their emails."
However, he warned that moves to create so-called "back doors" in encryption technology, as laid out in the Investigatory Powers Bill last week by the government, would undermine privacy while at the same time putting people at risk.
“Any back door is a back door for everyone. Everybody wants to crack down on terrorists. Everybody wants to be secure. The question is how. Opening a back door can have very dire consequences,” Cook argued.
He noted too that encryption is so widely available that even if big tech firms did agree to back doors, crooks will just find other ways of staying hidden, while "good people" are put at risk.
“It’s not the case that encryption is a rare thing that only two or three rich companies own and you can regulate them in some way. Encryption is widely available," he said.
"If you halt or weaken encryption, the people that you hurt are not the folks that want to do bad things. It’s the good people. The other people know where to go.”
Cook added, though, that he was optimistic a compromise could be reached to ensure the public were not left more at risk than they currently are.
“When the public gets engaged, the press gets engaged deeply, it will become clear to people what needs to occur. You can’t weaken cryptography. You need to strengthen it. You need to stay ahead of the folks that want to break it.”
Meanwhile, on the subject of the iPad and its slowing sales, Cook acknowledged that this was driven in part by its larger iPhone devices, but he said he was happy with this trade-off.
“I think if you have the larger phone, you’re less likely to have the iPad mini,” he said.
“I think it clearly created some cannibalisation - which we knew would occur - but we don’t really spend any time worrying about that, because as long as we cannibalise [ourselves], it’s fine."
Cook will be hoping the giant iPad Pro, with its 12.9in screen and Pencil and Smart Keyboard add-ons, will help reinvigorate the firm's iPad sales.
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