Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company has been helping the U.K. government investigate terror attacks. In the past, the U.S. firm has been subjected to constant flak for its support of digital services that run on end-to-end encryption.
Metadata is helpful to prevent or investigate attacks
In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday, Cook stated that they not only cooperate with law enforcement but have also worked with officials on some of the attacks.
“I cannot speak on detail on that. But in cases when we have information and they have gone through the lawful process we don’t just give it but we do it very promptly,” the executive said.
Cook, however, did not reveal which attack (or attacks) he was referring to.
Cook further stated that Apple did not shy from responding to any official queries for data, adding that he hoped law enforcement “would say that we’ve been cooperating well.”
The Apple CEO stated that although there is end-to-end encryption in apps such as iMessage and WhatsApp, there is a lot of information that information technology companies can share in the form of metadata. Though it does not show the content of the message, the context, such as where and to whom these messages were sent, can be seen.
“Metadata, if you’re putting together a profile, is very important,” the CEO said.
As per U.K. surveillance law, metadata, also referred to as “communications data,” is a term for the circumstances around the conversation thread. It gives information about where, how and when the call was placed or the iMessage was sent. United Kingdom law requires technology companies to store metadata, which can be used by public authorities in an ongoing investigation, notes Engadget.
Apple is helping in every possible way
The most recent terrorist attack in the United Kingdom — the third in less than three months — has made it difficult for technology companies to defend their products and services from violent extremists. In the aftermath of the terror attack, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said that Internet laws should be stricter and asked Internet companies to remove any online medium terrorists can use to communicate.
Time and again, law enforcement officials have criticized Apple’s high privacy standards. The company was even dragged to court last year by the FBI over the privacy issue. Cook stated that Apple does everything from providing the information of the attackers to preventing extremism. Even in the App Store, apps that support hate speech or recruiting are not published, the executive said.
Cook admitted that they could make mistakes at times, but, “Actually, I don’t know a case where something has got through in that perspective. So we’re very vigilant on what happens from that point of view.”
During the interview, Cook also made it clear that he has not been part of any of President Donald Trump’s advisory councils because he believes such groups are not “terribly productive.” However, Cook added that he would continue to offer his suggestions to President Trump on matters important to him and the United States, such as the Paris Climate accord.