By Glynn Wilson –
MOBILE, Ala. — If Apple CEO Tim Cook was an anti-gay activist judge like Judge Roy Moore, an openly Christian conservative Republican like Richard Shelby and/or a football star like Kenny “Snake” Stabler, there would be a bronze statue of him in his home town of Robertsdale in the center of Baldwin County. They would probably celebrate his legacy across the bay where he was born in Mobile, too.
Instead, according to a news feature on Cook just out in the Washington Post, Cook’s name is not noted on the town’s welcome signs along Highway 59. There’s nothing in the local chamber of commerce brochures about him. And the local weekly newspapers, the Independent in Robertsdale and other Gulf Coast Media newspapers in Baldwin County, rarely run any stories about him.
Instead, Robertsdale High School has a glass case celebrating former NFL running back Joe Childress, Class of 1952, but nothing about the leader of Apple, Tim Cook, Class of 1978.
Cook has come out in recent years as openly gay, and he’s unashamed in his acvocacy for the environment. Under his leadership Apple has opened major solar powered factories in North Carolina and Arizona. Perhaps if the people of Mobile and Baldwin County were open to such radical ideas of creating electricity with solar power instead of more coal and Canadian tar sands crude, maybe they could get an Apple plant in South Alabama instead of more heavy, polluting industries.
I can’t help but think Cook must have been exposed to my early journalism, since I covered politics and the environment in Baldwin County first in 1984-85, just two years after Cook graduated from Auburn, and then again from 1989-92, about the time Cook graduated from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
But as I write in my new memoir, just out as an Amazon Kindle book, the papers in Baldwin County were owned by former FBI agents and infiltrated by the CIA on domestic soil.
Now Cook is under attack from the FBI, which is trying to force him to get programmers to figure out a way to get into the iPhone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook. But technically there is nothing Apple can do directly to change the security of its phones, short of writing new software to make the phones less sucure and more hackable.
In defense of his position, Cook sent a message to Apple customers in February explaining Apple’s position.
“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” Cook said. “We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”
He said the company can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.
“For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data,” he said. “Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.”
He said complaying with the FBI’s demands would set a dangerous precedent.
“While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products,” he said. “And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
Good for Tim Cook. Good for Apple. Cook has also been a critic of Facebook and Google for collecting so much information on customers.
“They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetise it. We think that’s wrong,” Cook says. “And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”
I’ve been a devoted Apple/Mac user since I purchased my first PowerMac on an Apple education loan while a grad student at the University of Alabama in 1995. In 2000, while we were publishing the first online only magazine in Tennessee, I picked up one of the G3s that looked like a space ship and made a banner ad for Mac.
I’ve owned four Mac laptops over the years, an iMac, and now a Mac Mini, which needs to be replaced soon. I’ve gone through three generations of iPhones, and now hold an iPhone 6. But I am getting a bit disgrunteled with Apple products and may switch soon, unless Apple can figure out how to fix iTunes, which is incredibly screwed up.
I am disgrunteled with Facebook and Google myself as well and looking for alternatives.
Hey, maybe we could get together with Tim Cook and get Apple to buy us a bunch of new equipment and sponsor an alternative, independent press in South Alabama. Maybe we could help influence local officials into embracing clean energy alternatives — and the legacy of this highly successful local son.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.