Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to speak at Stanford University on Friday after the White House unveils a cybersecurity initiative, a new report says.
The White House will be hosting the summit at Stanford to outline how President Obama aims to get the US government and technology companies collaborating on issues of national security, according to The Hill. Apple's Cook will speak at that summit, though the iPhone maker has not said what he will address.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Incidents like the debilitating hack of Sony Pictures in November, and the ensuing hubbub over spilled Hollywood secrets and the controversial movie "The Interview," have helped call attention to the shortcomings of cybersecurity. That also became an international incident, with the US president pointing to North Korea as the likely culprit behind the hack.
But issues of national security and data privacy had also been hot topics of debate since leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden began nearly two years ago. Those leaks, spread over many months, show a widespread effort on the part of the US government to access user data from technology companies. The government has allegedly cataloged everything from phone calls to text messages to emails and photos.
The US government has said that any activities it may engage in solely relate to counter-terrorism and suspects living in other countries. US technology companies, however, have tried to hold the government to account, going so far as to sue the US to be allowed to show their users the degree to which data is taken on the grounds of national security.
Apple has been in the US government's sights on cybersecurity. With its mobile operating system iOS, Apple has built-in encryption that stymies federal law enforcement agents from easily eavesdropping on communications. In 2013, a federal law enforcement memo lamented Apple's encryption, saying that "it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices."
Apple has made it a policy to maintain data encryption across its products. Last year in an interview with Charlie Rose, Cook said that, adding that "if the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessage, we can't provide it. It's encrypted and we don't have the key."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey, saying that it effectively blocks law enforcement from doing its job. He said that he would like to see the companies build "front doors" that would allow law enforcement access to data when requested.
"We aren't seeking a back-door approach," Comey said, referring to a common term for encryption that has been intentionally weakened. "We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law," including court orders, he said.
Comey, like other US officials, argued that when tech companies fail to provide investigative agencies easy access to information, criminals will utilize tools like iMessage to conduct illicit activities. Apple, Google and others, however, have said that the argument doesn't hold water.