Tim Cook’s Tulane and Stanford speeches, and the focus on privacy

Related: Can ‘privacy’ be a convincing marketing proposition for premium pricing?

While both the speeches are worth listening to, in their entirety, I love the fact that he is accentuating Apple’s pitch for privacy, something only Apple can, confidently and with a serious face, claim.

Amongst Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (FAANG), only Apple doesn’t have a stake in privacy-busting algorithmic manipulation – Facebook shows you what you want by knowing what you see, Amazon shows you what you should buy by knowing what you have bought, Netflix shows you what you should be watching by knowing what you watched and Google… well, that’s a different ball-game altogether.

But, in a world where we have been conditioned to expect our digital device to know about us based on what we input, and help us save time by telling us what we need to watch, where we need to go or what we need to buy, privacy and its contours of charging a premium to ‘maintain’ our privacy where it was once a basic, free-tier expectation, continue to be very interesting.

The 2 specific parts of Tim Cook’s 2 speeches, on privacy – below:

Tulane speech:
We forget sometimes that our preexisting beliefs have their own force of gravity. Today, certain algorithms pull toward you the things you already know, believe, or like, and they push away everything else. Push back. It shouldn’t be this way. But in 2019, opening your eyes and seeing things in a new way can be a revolutionary act. Summon the courage not just to hear but to listen. Not just to act, but to act together.

Full speech:

Stanford speech:
Lately, it seems, this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation: the belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility.

We see it every day now, with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech. Fake news poisoning our national conversation. The false promise of miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood. Too many seem to think that good intentions excuse away harmful outcomes. But whether you like it or not, what you build and what you create define who you are.

It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this. But if you’ve built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos. Taking responsibility means having the courage to think things through. And there are few areas where this is more important than privacy.

If we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold, or even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human. Think about what’s at stake. Everything you write, everything you say, every topic of curiosity, every stray thought, every impulsive purchase, every moment of frustration or weakness, every gripe or complaint, every secret shared in confidence.

In a world without digital privacy, even if you have done nothing wrong other than think differently, you begin to censor yourself. Not entirely at first. Just a little, bit by bit. To risk less, to hope less, to imagine less, to dare less, to create less, to try less, to talk less, to think less. The chilling effect of digital surveillance is profound, and it touches everything. What a small, unimaginative world we would end up with. Not entirely at first. Just a little, bit by bit. Ironically, it’s the kind of environment that would have stopped Silicon Valley before it had even gotten started.

We deserve better. You deserve better.

Full speech: