In loudly criticizing the data-collecting practices of Silicon Valley Internet companies, Apple CEO Tim Cook is lashing out at some of his most valuable content providers.
Half of the 10 most popular free apps on the iPhone are owned by Google or Facebook. Those services are free because they're ad-supported. They help drive iPhone sales, and the iPhone accounts for more than half of Apple's revenue.
Cook didn't name names, but when he said companies "have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information," he wasn't leaving much to the imagination. And in saying, "That's not the kind of company that Apple wants to be," he has that luxury because other businesses are doing it for him.
"He's the enabler and he's the beneficiary," said Maha Ibrahim, a general partner at venture firm Canaan Partners in Menlo Park, California. "He's just not getting his hands dirty."
Cook spoke Monday night at an event sponsored by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and covered by TechCrunch. It came nine months after the Apple CEO wrote an open letter explaining that the company doesn't monetize consumer data and doesn't create a "profile based on your email content or Web browsing habits to sell to advertisers."
Cook is tapping into a sensitive issue. The privacy topic entered the mainstream in 2013, after Edward Snowden leaked classified information detailing how U.S. companies cooperate with the National Security Agency in handing over user data.