For tech giants Apple, Facebook and Google, the past week has featured a lot of heated rhetoric related to privacy and security. But among them, Apple is the company that has the most to lose from its stance on the topic.
In a speech in Brussels calling for enhanced privacy regulation, Apple's Tim Cook was highly critical of tech companies that use personal data to make money. Although he was careful not to name Facebook and Google, it was fairly obvious who he was talking about. At times, he seemed to come out against technology itself, at one point quoting Henry David Thoreau: "'We do not ride on the railroad,' he said. 'It rides upon us.'"
It's part of an overall corporate philosophy, often repeated by Cook and in Apple's marketing, that "privacy is a human right."
These assertions have drawn the ire of Apple competitors and detractors. Facebook's former chief security officer, Alex Stamos, fired back, saying Cook's statements were hypocritical because the company's China business doesn't treat those citizens the same way.
"Apple needs to come clean on how iCloud works in China and stop setting damaging precedents for how willing American companies will be to service the internal security desires of the Chinese Communist Party," he tweeted.
The dispute spans many years, many tweets, many speeches and will only get more heated.
But from a financial point of view, Apple has the most to lose from positioning itself this way. That's because when your business is built around privacy and security, you'd better not have a serious breach of either.