On Clean Power Plan & Digital Privacy, Apple & Tim Cook Get It

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In an interview with Kara Swisher of Recode and Chris Hayes of MSNBC that aired on April 6, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, blasted Facebook for the way it monetizes user information. “The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product,” Cook said. “We’ve elected not to do that. We’re not going to traffic in your personal life. Privacy to us is a human right, a civil liberty.” During the interview, Cook has quite a bit more to say about privacy in the digital age.

Encryption Is The Key

Apple iPhone“The only way to protect your data is to encrypt it. There is no other way known today. And so, if I were you, I would do business with no one that wasn’t doing that. Now, it is a thorny issue from a law enforcement point of view, because they may want to know what you’re saying, and I don’t have access to what you’re saying. And my view is kind of simple, I don’t think that you as a user expect me to know what you’re telling people, right?

“I’m not eavesdropping on your messages and on your phone calls, and don’t think I should be in that position. And so, if they tried to compel us, as they did 2 years ago — they tried to force us to create a piece of software that would have it stolen, opened hundreds of millions of iPhones in the world. We said, ‘Hey, there’s lots of things technology can do. That one shouldn’t be done. It should never be created.’ And so we refused.

“They said, ‘You can’t refuse. We can make you do it.’ We said, ‘No, you can’t. It’s against the Constitution.’ And — and right before they went to court, they dropped the case. And so if that same circumstance rose again, we would fight. Because this — this, again, is a value of America, right? You should not be able to compel somebody to write something that is bad for civilization. Right? This is a fundamental wrong.”

As Mark Zuckerberg slinks down to Washington to testify before Congress, he is likely to have a very different point of view.

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Keep The Clean Power Plan

clean power planApple is now the first major corporation to support the Clean Power Plan put in place by the Obama administration. It was intended to reduce carbon emissions from America’s power generation sector by 30% by 2030, mostly by placing restrictions on new and existing coal fired facilities. Republicans reacted furiously to the CPP, calling it an egregious example of federal overreach. Trump and Scott Pruitt have been doing everything in their power to keep the plan from being implemented, but under the Administrative Procedures Act, any and all changes to federal regulations have to have a period for comments by the public.

Apple has done so, telling The Verge the fight against climate change is a “moral and environmental imperative that also makes good business sense.” The Republicans would prefer to allow each state to manage power generation within its borders rather than having a national framework that benefits the country as a whole. Apple says in its comment that such a piecemeal approach is wrong-headed and ineffective.

It says regulating the grid’s carbon emissions “power plant by power plant” won’t work because the electrical grid is so interconnected. “Regulation should consider the dynamic and interconnected nature of how power is generated, sold and consumed.” Apple has significant insight into how the grid operates because of its Apple Energy division, which sells excess electricity from the company’s renewable energy portfolio back to the grid.

Lastly, Apple’s comment points out that renewable energy insulates large commercial users like itself from future electricity price hikes. It points out that China is surging ahead of the rest of the world in carbon reductions in the energy sector and creating business opportunities for Chinese companies that the US is overlooking.

All in all, there is nothing to recommend repealing the Clean Power Plan, Apple says. Fortunately for all the citizens of the world, the rapid increase in renewable energy in the US means that most of the objectives of the CPP will be realized despite efforts in Washington to protect the coal industry from market forces.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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