In his now (in)famous speech, Tim Cook used the Stanford graduation ceremony last weekend to warn the young grads (and the world) about his concerns regarding the direction tech firms have been taking. While hailing the industry for its successes - from HP to the iPhone - Cook pulled no punches when discussing the chaos that they've created. Here are 3 takeaways from Cook's remarks:
Silicon Valley is in the midst of a privacy crisis
Gone are the blissful days when we naively, if reasonably, believed that tech firms could be trusted to protect their own customers. Now, hardly a day goes by without a large data breach, privacy scandal, corporate coverup, or (most likely) all of the above.
From Facebook to Yahoo, nearly every Valley-native has either intentionally or through gross negligence released massive quantities of private user data, selling out their customers in the process. But the tech-elite are only the tip of the iceberg. According to a Hiscox survey, a full 7 out of 10 organizations remain unprepared in the event of a cyberattack, and this number is only set to increase.
"Today we gather at a moment that demands some reflections. Fueled by caffeine and code, optimism and idealism, conviction and creativity, generations of Stanford graduates and dropouts have used technology to remake our society. But I think you would agree that lately the results haven't been neat or straightforward," Cook said.
"In just the four years that you've been here, things feel like they've taken a sharp turn. Crisis has tempered optimism. Consequences have challenged idealism. And reality has shaken blind faith."
If you want to take credit, you also have to take responsibility
The first step to correcting the mistakes of the past and present, said Cook, is to begin to rethink the level of responsibility that companies have for how their creations are being put to use, both internally and externally. Although in the past it was common for companies to look to the government for guidance and regulations, they've since come to the realisation that government oversight is vastly overwhelmed by the rapid pace of innovation. The answer? Tech firms must take responsibility for the uses and abuses of their products.
"Lately it seems this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation: the belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility. It feels a bit crazy that anyone has to say this, but if you built a chaos factory, you can't dodge responsibility for the chaos," said Cook. "Taking responsibility means having the courage to think things through."
If users have entrusted you with their most private information, bringing you success and wealth in the process, then it is your responsibility to take the necessary steps to protect them.
Privacy is not just a legal issue; it's a fundamental human concern
The front lines of this battle for the soul of the internet is being waged at the intersection of data privacy and security. It is no secret that privacy is something that Cook is passionate about, and he used this opportunity to highlight just how crucial this issue is for the future of humanity.
"If we accept as normal and unavoidable that anything in our lives can be aggregated, sold or even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human," he said. "The chilling effect of digital surveillance is profound and it touches everything."
Although he didn't explicitly call out Facebook, he made it abundantly clear that the $500 billion behemoth was in his line of fire.
"We see it every day now with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech, fake news poisoning our national conversation, the false miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood."
Now is the moment for a reality check
Are you investing enough in cybersecurity? Is your customer/user data as safe as you think it is? Are you living up to your cybersecurity promises and goals? At Silent Breach, we offer a full suite of tailored solutions to give you a 360-degree snapshot of your organisation's digital exposure and guide you on the path towards cyber-proficiency.
About Silent Breach: Silent Breach is an award-winning provider of cyber security services. Our global team provides cutting-edge insights and expertise across the Data Center, Enterprise, SME, Retail, Government, Finance, Education, Automotive, Hospitality, Healthcare and IoT industries.