[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text
version below transcribed directly from audio]
It is an honor to be here with you today in
this grand hall, room that
represents what is possible when people of different backgrounds,
histories, and philosophies come together to build something bigger than
I am deeply grateful to our hosts. I want to recognize
Karadjov for his service and leadership. And it is a true privilege to be
introduced by his co-host, a statesman that I admire greatly,
Now, Italy has produced more than its fair share of great leaders and public
servants. Machiavelli taught us
how leaders get away with evil
deeds; and Dante showed us what happens
when they get caught. But
Giovanni has done something very different. Through his values, his
dedication, his thoughtful work, Giovanni, his predecessor
Peter Hustinx, and
all of you have set an example for the world. We are deeply grateful.
We need you to keep making progress -- now more than ever, because these
are transformative times. Around the world, from Copenhagen to Chennai
to Cupertino, new technologies are driving breakthroughs in humanity’s
greatest common projects -- from preventing and fighting disease, to
curbing the effects of climate change, to ensuring every person has
access to information and economic opportunity.
At the same time, we see vividly, painfully, how technology can harm
rather than help. Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our
lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies. Rogue actors and
even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions,
incite violence, and even undermine our
shared sense of what is true and
what is false.
This crisis is real. It is not imagined or exaggerated or "crazy." And
those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not
shrink from this moment.
Now, more than ever -- as leaders of governments, as decision-makers in
business, and as citizens -- we must ask ourselves a fundamental
question: What kind of world do we want to live in?
I'm here today because we hope to work with you as partners in answering
At Apple, we are optimistic about technology’s awesome potential for
good. But we know that it won’t happen on its own. Every day, we work to
infuse the devices we make with the humanity that makes us. As
before, "Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn’t
want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all
That’s why I believe that our missions are so closely aligned. As
Giovanni puts it, “We must act to ensure that technology is designed and
developed to serve humankind, and not the other way around.”2
We at Apple believe that
privacy is a fundamental human right. But we
also recognize that not everyone sees it that way.
In a way, the
desire to put profits over privacy is nothing new. As far back as 1890, future Supreme Court Justice
published an article in the Harvard Law Review, making the case for a
“Right to Privacy” in the United States. He warned: “Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the
vicious, but has become a trade.”3
Today that trade has exploded into a Data-Industrial Complex.4
information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. Every day, billions of dollars change hands and countless decisions are
made on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families,
our relationships and conversations, our wishes and fears, our hopes and
dreams. These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own,
assembled, synthesized, traded, and sold.
Taken to its extreme, this process creates an enduring digital profile
and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your
profile is then run through algorithms that serve up increasingly
extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened
convictions. If green is your favorite color, you may find yourself
reading a lot of articles or watching a lot of videos about the
insidious threat from people who like orange.
In the news, almost every day, we bear witness to the harmful, even
deadly, effects of these narrowed world views.
We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This. Is. Surveillance. And these
stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that
collect them. This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us. And it
illustrates the importance of our shared work and the challenges still
ahead of us.
Fortunately, this year, you’ve shown the world that good policy and
political will can come together to protect the rights of everyone. We
should celebrate the transformative work of the European institutions
tasked with the successful implementation of the
GDPR [General Data Protection
Regulation]. We also celebrate
the new steps taken, not only here in Europe, but around the world. In
Singapore, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, and many more nations, regulators
are asking tough questions and crafting effective reforms.
It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow
We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law
in the United States.
There, and everywhere, it should be rooted in four
First, the right to have personal data minimized.
Companies should challenge themselves to de-identify customer data -- or
not to collect it in the first place.
Second, the right to knowledge.
Users should always know what data is being collected and what it is
being collected for. This is the only way to empower users to decide
what collection is legitimate and what isn’t. Anything less is a sham.
Third, the right to access. Companies should recognize that data belongs
to users, and we should all make it easy for users to get a copy
of, correct, and delete their personal data.
And fourth, the right to
security. Security is foundational to trust -- and all other privacy
Now, there are many people who would prefer I hadn’t said all that. Some
oppose any form of privacy legislation. Others will endorse reform in
public, and then resist and undermine it behind closed doors. They may say to you,
"Our companies will never achieve technology’s true
potential if they are constrained with privacy regulation."
notion isn’t just wrong -- it is destructive. Technology’s potential is, and always must be, rooted in the faith
people have in it: in the optimism and the creativity that it stirs in the
hearts of individuals; in its promise and capacity to make the world a
It’s time to face facts. We will never achieve technology’s true
potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use
At Apple, respect for privacy -- and a healthy suspicion of authority -- have
always been in our bloodstream. Our first computers were built by
misfits, tinkerers, and rebels -- not in a laboratory or a board room, but
in a suburban garage.
We introduced the
Macintosh with a
famous TV ad
channeling George Orwell's
Nineteen Eighty-Four -- a warning of what can happen when
technology becomes a tool of power and loses touch with humanity. And way back in 2010, Steve Jobs said in no uncertain terms: “Privacy
means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain language, and
It’s worth remembering the foresight and the courage it took to make that
When we designed this device we knew it could put more
personal data in your pocket than most of us keep in our homes. And
there was enormous pressure on Steve and Apple to bend our values and to
freely share the information. But we refused to compromise. In fact,
we’ve only deepened our commitment in the decade since.
From hardware breakthroughs that encrypt fingerprints and faces
securely -- and only -- on your device, to simple and powerful notifications
that make clear to every user precisely what they’re sharing and when
they are sharing it.
We aren’t absolutist, and we don’t claim to have all the answers.
Instead, we always try to return to that simple question:
What kind of
world do we want to live in?
At every stage of the creative process, then and now, we engage in
open, honest, and robust ethical debate about the products we make and
the impact they will have. That’s just a part of our culture. We don’t do it because we have to.
We do it because we ought to. The
values behind our products are [as] important to us as any feature.
We understand the dangers are real -- from cyber-criminals to rogue
nation-states. We’re not willing to leave our users to fend for
themselves. And we've shown we will defend them -- we will defend our principles when
Those values, that commitment to thoughtful debate and
transparency, they’re only going to get more important. As progress
speeds up, these things should continue to ground us and connect us --
first and foremost to the people we serve.
Artificial Intelligence is one area I think a lot about.
And clearly it's
on the minds of many of my peers as well. At its core, this technology promises to learn from people individually
to benefit us all. Yet, advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles
is laziness, not efficiency. For Artificial Intelligence, to be truly
smart, it must respect human values, including privacy.
If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound.
We can achieve both great Artificial Intelligence and great privacy
standards. It is not only a possibility -- it is a responsibility.
In the pursuit of artificial intelligence, we should not sacrifice the
humanity, creativity, ingenuity that defined our human intelligence.
And at Apple, we never will.
In the mid-19th Century, the great American writer
Henry David Thoreau
found himself so fed up with the pace and change of Industrial society
that he moved to a cabin in the woods by
Walden Pond. Call it the first digital cleanse.
Yet even there, where he hoped to find a bit of peace, he could hear a
distant clatter and whistle of a steam engine passing by. “We do not
ride on the railroad,”
he said. “It rides upon us.”6
Those of us who are fortunate enough to work in technology have an
It is not to please every grumpy Thoreau out there. That’s an
unreasonable standard, and we’ll never meet it.
We are responsible, however, for recognizing the devices we make
and the platforms we build have real, lasting, even permanent effects on
the individuals and communities who use them.
We must never stop asking ourselves: What kind of world do we want to
The answer to that question must not be an afterthought. It should be
our primary concern.
We at Apple can -- and do -- provide the very best to our users while treating
their personal data like the precious cargo that it is. And if we
can do it, then everyone can do it.
Fortunately, we have your example before us.
Thank you for your work, for your commitment to the possibility of
human-centered technology, and for your firm belief that our best days
are still ahead of us.
Thank you very much.