Apple's Tim Cook warns that sacrificing privacy 'risks our way of life'

Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned of "dire consequences" if tech companies can't protect the privacy of those who use their products.

Giving up our privacy to digital technologies exposes us to greater risks than just identity theft and financial losses--serious though those things are, Cook said in a brief speech at a cybersecurity summit in Silicon Valley on Friday.

"History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences," Cook said.

"We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally," he said, "where too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion or love who they choose, a world in which that information can make the difference between life or death."

He may have been alluding to oppressive regimes that punish citizens for political beliefs or their sexual orientation. But speaking to an audience that includes U.S. policy makers, Cook's remarks are also a reminder of the government's need to protect privacy as it conducts its digital surveillance campaigns.

"If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money. We risk our way of life," he said.