Apple CEO Tim Cook has delivered a scathing attack on free web services, like Google and Facebook, warning that user privacy "is being attacked on multiple fronts".

Speaking via videolink at a dinner hosted by the Electronic Privacy Information Centre in Washington DC, Cook, while not specifically naming Facebook or Google, laid into free web services, criticising them of "lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information."

Cook went on: "They're gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetise it. We think that's wrong. And it's not the kind of company that Apple wants to be."

Although not naming names, Cook appeared to reference Google's new Photos app, which was launched at its I/O developer conference on 28 May. Reported by TechCrunch, He questioned if the free app, which boasts unlimited cloud storage, would one day be used for targeted adverts at its users. "You might like these so-called free services, but we don't think they're worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose...and we think someday customers will see this for what it is."

Apple runs its own photo storage service, along with an email client, calendar and online contacts book under the iCloud application suite, but the company does not target its customers with adverts. However, Apple does have an advertisement business of its own; iAds runs inside iOS applications and on iTunes Radio, enabling companies to target adverts at users.

Continuing his attack on web companies, Cook said his company "rejects the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security. We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy." He added that Apple "doesn't want your data," echoing the company's stance on not recording purchases made through its new Apple Pay payments system.

The battle over encryption

Switching to the topic of data encryption, which was recently described by the United Nations as a basic human right, Cook explained the pressure from policy makers and government agencies to force Apple to offer a "master key" for gaining access to customer data. "There's another attack on our civil liberties that we see heating up every day - it's the battle over encryption.

"Some in Washington are hoping to undermine the ability of ordinary citizens to encrypt their data. We think this is incredibly dangerous...for years we've offered encryption services like iMessage and FaceTime because we believe the contents of your text messages and your video chats is none of our business."

Combatting US government claims that data encryption is an enabler of terrorism, Cook said: "If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too. Criminals are using every technology tool at their disposal to hack into people's accounts. If they know there's a key hidden somewhere, they won't stop until they find it."