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Apple Pay Coming Soon to Government-Operated Services

Tim Cook says the Apple Pay expansion is coming in September.

Vjeran Pavic

Apple Pay is teaming up with the feds.

Beginning in September, Apple Pay, the company’s pay-by-phone commerce offering, will work with certain government-owned parks and government-issued credit cards, Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Friday, adding that it may someday even work for services like veteran’s pensions and Social Security payments.

Cook spoke just minutes before President Barack Obama as part of the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University.

“We can imagine a day in the not so distant future when your wallet becomes a remnant of the past,” he said. “Your passport, your driver’s license and other important documents can be stored in a way that’s safe, secure and easy to access, but only by you.”

Cook also used his time onstage to reiterate Apple’s stance on user privacy — that is, that the company has no intention of storing or collecting personal info to sell to advertisers (or give to the government).

“We believe deeply that everyone has a right to privacy and security,” he said, noting that information such as payment history and credit card data is not stored with Apple Pay transactions. “Our customer’s trust means everything to us and we spent decades working to earn that trust.”

On this point, Apple has debated with Washington. In the past, FBI director James Comey has criticized Apple for failing to hand over private user information despite government requests.

This came after Apple updated its encryption technology to better protect this information, a move brought forth after reports of widespread public surveillance by the National Security Agency; these reports also included alleged participation from some of tech’s most influential companies, including Apple.

Apple denied working with the NSA to provide back-channel access to this user information, and said it will continue to protect user data. In fact, Cook said in September that Apple’s iOS 8 blocks the company from even accessing users’ private photos, messages, emails or call history.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Cook wrote in an open letter. “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.”

Comey said in October that this information is necessary for the FBI’s job to keep people safe and fight terrorism. “If the challenges of real-time interception threaten to leave us in the dark,” he said, “encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place.”

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