Apple CEO Tim Cook drew cheers from a Salt Lake City audience on Friday as he reiterated the company's unwavering commitment to encryption and privacy protections for its customers, according to local media reports.
The comments were made during a Q&A session at the yearly meeting of the Utah Technology Council (UTC), a trade and advocacy group representing more than 5,000 technology and life-sciences companies across the U.S. state. The 55-year-old CEO was invited along with Utah senator Orrin Hatch to take the stage at the Grand America Hotel and field questions from a public audience.
Calling encryption "one of the biggest issues we face," the CEO noted that most iPhone users have more personal data on their phones than in their homes. "Encryption is one of the things that makes the public safe," he said. "We feel we have a responsibility to protect our customers."
"We believe the only way to protect both your privacy and safety from a cyberattack is to encrypt," Cook told about 1,400 industry executives, tech workers and Apple fans. "We throw all of ourselves into this and are very much standing on principle in this."
Cook was responding to questions regarding the lingering impact of Apple's dispute with the FBI over the agency's demand that it build a "back door" into its software, following the use of a locked iPhone by the primary suspect in the San Bernardino mass shooting last December.
Apple refused to comply with the request from the federal agency, which dropped its pursuit of the company when investigators apparently discovered another way to retrieve the data on the suspect's phone.
Senator Hatch and @tim_cook greeted a group of elementary and middle school students earlier for some selfies. #UtahTechTour #UTC #utpol pic.twitter.com/r1q4A8CrwD — Senator Hatch Office (@SenOrrinHatch) October 1, 2016
During the Q&A session, Cook also talked up the emerging field of augmented reality and underscored the importance of digital photo technology in preserving personal memories, which led him onto the subject of Apple's co-founder, Cook's late friend and colleague, Steve Jobs.
The CEO spoke fondly of keeping the former chairman's office intact at the company's Cupertino campus in California, where Jobs' personal knickknacks remain in place five years after his death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 56.
"His spirit will always be the DNA of the company," said Cook. "Jobs' vision was to make the best products that enrich people's lives. Lots of things will change with Apple, but that will never change."
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