Tim Cook appears to be using his international tour, which so far includes Israel, Germany and the UK, to push a second product every bit as hard as the Apple Watch: privacy. In an interview with the German newspaper BILD posted yesterday (paywall), Cook went as far as to praise Edward Snowden for his role in prompting discussion of the issue.

If Snowden did anything for us at all, then it was to get us to talk more about these things. [Apple’s] values have always been the same.

The comments follow a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at which data privacy was reportedly a key topic. Cook also told the Telegraph last week that “none of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information.” Cook has in the past resisted FBI pressure to compromise its strong encryption, and was the only tech CEO to attend a recent White House cybersecurity summit.

In the BILD interview, Cook reiterated Apple’s stance on privacy, and also said that as Apple had grown larger, it had taken deliberate decisions to be less secretive about some aspects of its business … 

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Cook stressed that Apple takes pains to ensure that it does not have access to unnecessary data about its customers.

We don’t read your emails, we don’t read your messages, we find it unacceptable to do that. I don’t want people reading mine! […]

We have designed Apple Pay purposely so that we don’t know where you buy something, how much you pay for it, what you bought. We don’t want to know any of that.

He said that when Apple does request permission to use customer data, it is always used to improve products and customers “have a right to stop that at any time.“

Cook said that Apple had chosen to be extremely transparent about privacy issues, and also to share its work on improving working conditions in its supply chain in the hope that this would help accelerate the pace of change.

In the past we were secretive about everything. When Apple got a little larger, we realized that we can actually change some more things in the world if we are extremely transparent around social issues like privacy, security, education, or the environment.

If Apple improves working conditions this might possibly put some pressure on other manufacturers to copy it. This is an area where I wish that others copy us.

There would, though, be no change in Apple’s secrecy about its product plans.

We are still secretive about our coming products. So if you ask me what we are working on I’m not going to answer this question.” Asked about the Apple car, he replied simply: “I have read the rumours. I can’t comment on it.”

Shortly after what would have been Steve Job’s 60th birthday, Cook described Steve as the best teacher he’d ever had.

He may not always get the appropriate credit for this, but he was by far the best teacher I ever had. You will probably never read this in a book because people focus on other parts of his personality.

He taught me that the joy is in the journey. That it’s not in an event, it’s not in shipping a product or an award. It’s in the journey itself.

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