STANFORD — In a speech at a cybersecurity conference here that will feature President Barack Obama, Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized the importance of protecting consumer privacy.
Taking a veiled shot at critics in the administration and law enforcement who have complained that Apple’s encryption practices have made it difficult for them to pursue criminals, Cook argued that the company has an obligation to protect its customers’ data.
« People have entrusted us with their most personal and precious information, » Cook said. « We owe them nothing less than the best protection that we can possibly provide. »
Cook’s speech highlighted some of the underlying tensions at the summit here. While government officials would like to focus on what they see as a significant and growing threat to corporate networks and national infrastructure from hackers, foreign countries and other bad actors, many Silicon Valley companies are still upset about the damaging revelations from Edward Snowden and others that the National Security Agency has infiltrated their own networks and products and undermined security standards.
Obama announced earlier today that he will sign an executive order designed to encourage private companies to share more information about network threats among themselves and with the federal government.
The order will focus on promoting organizations that will serve as hubs for information about particular threats or for companies in specific regions. The order also promises to make it easier for private organizations to access classified information from the government about particular threats.
The president is issuing the order as he heads to attend a conference at Stanford University with tech leaders to discuss the threats to computer networks. In addition to Cook, other prominent business figures that are expected to attend or speak at the conference include Box CEO Aaron Levie, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman and PGE CEO Anthony Earley Jr.
The summit comes amid a growing concern about the vulnerability of large corporations to cyber attacks. Earlier this month, a hacking attack on health insurance giant Anthem exposed the personal data of up to 80 million customers and employees. That breach follows similar large-scale attacks over the last two years at companies such as Target, Home Depot and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285. Follow him at Twitter.com/troywolv.
Obama order on cyber security
At the Cyber Security Summit at Stanford, President Obama will sign an executive order intended to protect computer networks and data. Among the provisions:
Information hubs. The order would promote the creation of « information sharing and analysis organizations, » or ISAOs. These would serve as central points to share information on particular threats and in specific regions. The order also envisions the development of voluntary standards to which these organizations, which could be private companies or community organizations, would comply.
Information sharing. The order gives the Department of Homeland Security and the new National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center the authority to share threat data with the information hubs. It would also give companies easier access to classified cybersecurity data.
Privacy civil liberties protections. The order calls on information hubs to abide by voluntary standards to protect citizens’ data and privacy that include minimizing the amount of data collected and kept.