Apple CEO Tim Cook said during his keynote address to Stanford’s graduating class on Saturday that the technology industry, despite good intentions, has failed to take responsibility for issues arising on privacy and hate speech, creating “chaos” by its inaction.
“Too many seem to think good intentions excuse away harmful outcomes,” Cook said. “But whether you like it or not, what you build and what you create define who you are. It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this. But if you’ve built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos. Taking responsibility means having the courage to see things through.”
Cook said the tech industry has been trying to preserve an image as a bastion of free ideas.
“Here’s a plain fact — Silicon Valley is responsible for some of the most revolutionary inventions in modern history … But lately, it seems, this industry is becoming known for a less noble innovation. The belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility,” Cook said.
Unspecified social media giants were condemned for not doing enough to stop “hate speech” – although Cook didn’t define the term or deal with recent objections from conservatives that non-liberal ideas are censored – and he also called out Theranos, the blood-testing company that attracted huge investments without a real product.
“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. False miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood,” Cook said.
The result is that ideas become stifled, leading to a world where the type of imagination that spawned the tech industry itself can be suppressed.
“In a world without digital privacy, even if you’ve done nothing wrong other than think differently, you begin to censor yourself,” Cook said. “Not entirely at first, just a little. Bit by bit. To risk less, to hope less, to imagine less, to dare less, to create less, to try less, to talk less, to think less.”
To enhance privacy, Cook touted a new feature called Sign In WIth Apple, a VPN-like feature which allows users to sign in to a website with a randomly generated fake address, albeit one tied to your Apple ID. The fake address will stop websites from tracking individual user private data.