Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed on Monday that the company has been helping the U.K. government investigate terror attacks in the country, despite being criticized by officials for its steadfast support of digital services that use end-to-end encryption.
“We have been cooperating with the U.K. government not only in law enforcement kind of matters but on some of the attacks,” Cook said during a Bloomberg Television interview on Monday. “I cannot speak on detail on that. But in cases when we have information and they have gone through the lawful process we don’t just give it but we do it very promptly.”
Cook went on to suggest that rather than breaking encryption and risking the security of millions of users’ private data, technology companies could provide police with metadata – revealing when, where, and who sent and received messages, but not their content – which could be extremely helpful in criminal investigations. “Metadata, if you’re putting together a profile, is very important,” said Cook.
The comments follow a third attack in as many months in the U.K., which has reignited the debate surrounding online surveillance in the country. The current Conservative government is demanding new powers that would force technology companies to compromise encryption protocols.
In the wake of Saturday’s terrorist attack at London Bridge, Prime Minister Theresa May again called for new laws to regulate the internet, demanding that internet companies do more to remove places online where terrorists can communicate. “We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed,” she said. “Yet that is precisely what the internet and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide.”
Recently the U.K. government passed a bill that could theoretically mean companies are legally bound to do comply with such requests, although the practicalities of such a law have been repeatedly questioned by security experts. Apple’s privacy and encryption policy has also been criticized by U.S. law enforcement officials and the company publicly clashed last year in court with the FBI over the issue.
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