Apple CEO Tim Cook focuses on privacy, education and advocacy during Silicon Slopes visit

Top tech leader said kids should learn how to code because it teaches critical thinking skills.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apple CEO Tim Cook holds a fireside conversation with Utah Sen. Mike Lee at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

Apple CEO Tim Cook described privacy — specifically privacy in relation to technology — as a fundamental human right during a stop in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

“Your phone has more information on you than if someone went to your house and opened every closet, every drawer and everything in your home,” Cook said.

That view may seem quaint in today’s hyper-connected world where large amounts of data is collected and consumed from each of our numerous devices, but Cook said users should be able to keep their private information locked up on their devices if they so choose.

“We believe in encryption. The reason is some governments have done things that are not in the best interests of the citizenry,” Cook said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Sponsor Pavilion at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

The Apple chief executive was sharing the main stage with Sen. Mike Lee, a sometimes critic of big technology, at the annual Silicon Slopes conference.

Lee agreed with Cook and warned against the dangers and unintended consequences of unchecked data collection by technology companies. Technology company DOMO, a sponsor of the event, estimated there were more than 5 billion internet users worldwide as of July 2021. The total amount of data consumed globally during 2021 has been 79 zettabytes.

“Almost everything in the life of pretty much every living, breathing American today, not just adults, but adolescents and even children, has a significant online data problem,” Lee warned. “That makes a lot of things more convenient, but there’s a dark side, too.”

The Utah senator listed government intrusion and stolen personal data as some of the top threats from data collection.

Cook also said our technology-focused society is changing the approach to education, noting that a traditional-four year college degree is no longer the only path to a good job.

“There are so many jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. We believe every kid should learn to code because that teaches critical thinking skills,” Cook said. “You don’t need to become a coder, but that skill, married with creativity, is important.”

Boosting LGBTQ+ kids

Earlier in the day, Cook joined several Utah luminaries to announce a new fundraising initiative for the Utah-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group Encircle.

“I understand what it can feel like to be isolated, or you can’t share your truth with anyone else,” Cook said. “It’s not easy when you’re made to feel different, or less than, because of who you are or who you love.”

Earlier this year, Cook joined with Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds to raise $8 million to build eight houses that provide support and mental health services for youth, a goal they met within a few months.

The new program targets $13 million in fundraising to support the future operations of a planned 13 houses in several cities, according to Encircle CEO and founder Stephanie Larsen.

“We know the mental health services we are providing are keeping children alive. And not merely alive, but they’re thriving,” Larsen said.

Former NBA star and part-owner of the Utah Jazz Dwyane Wade told the story of his child, Zaya, who transitioned when she was 8.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dwyane Wade, three-time NBA champion and part owner of the Utah Jazz joins a press event showing his support for the Utah nonprofit called Encircle, on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, which offers resources and peer counseling for LGBTQ youths and their families.

“At that moment, I had a lot to learn. My wife and I had a lot of learning and a lot of listening. We don’t have all the answers,” Wade said. “We all need to take a moment to listen, have empathy, compassion and understand we’re living in a world where everyone is different and we’re all trying to reach the same goal in life, to be our best selves.”


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