Tim Cook explains Apple's privacy policies in open letter

Apple publishes new webpage that explains how it handles its users' personal information and government requests for that information.

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Steven Musil
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Apple CEO Tim Cook talks privacy with PBS's Charlie Rose to talk shop. Screengrab by Dara Kerr/CNET

Just days after Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed the company's privacy record with Charlie Rose, Apple has published a new privacy policy that explains how it handles its users' personal information and government requests for that information.

In an open letter published Wednesday, Cook reiterated points he made during the interview with Rose, in which he said Apple takes " a very different view" of privacy than its Silicon Valley brethren, which often make a business out of collecting and leveraging customer information.

"We don't build a profile based on your email content or Web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don't 'monetize' the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you," Cook wrote in the letter, which was published on Apple's privacy page.

On the heels of the release of several private, nude images of celebrities pilfered from Apple iCloud accounts, the new privacy section includes guidelines from protecting online accounts. After an Apple investigation determined that the image release was the result of a targeted attack on individual accounts and not poor security on its part, Cook said the company would bolster its security alert system on the online storage service.

In addition to reactivating iCloud's two-factor identity verification system earlier this week, Apple urged customers to use of strong passwords and said iCloud data is encrypted while in transit, and in most cases, during storage.

Cook's letter also sought to reassure Apple's customers that their data was safe from the prying eyes of government surveillance agencies, which have reportedly procured information on electronic communications from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, among others.

"I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services," Cook said. "We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will."

The same policy now applies to users' personal portable devices, Cook wrote. He noted that data on devices running iOS 8, the new mobile operating system Apple released Wednesday, are protected by users' personal passcodes that Apple can't bypass.

"So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8," Cook wrote.