Apple's Tim Cook: 'Don't believe' tech companies that say they need your data

  • Apple's Tim Cook hit out at tech companies that insist more customer data leads to superior products, saying in an interview with Vice that such claims are a "bunch of bunk."
  • The tech CEO did not name names, but appeared to point the finger at the likes of Facebook and Google.
  • Cook insisted that Apple has not compromised user privacy in China.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the 2018 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 4, 2018 in San Jose, California.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the 2018 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 4, 2018 in San Jose, California.

Apple CEO Tim Cook hit out at tech companies that claim more customer data leads to superior products, saying that's a "bunch of bunk."

In an exclusive interview with Vice News Tonight that aired Tuesday, Cook did not name any names but appeared to admonish the likes of advertising giants Facebook and Google, which rely on data sharing with third parties.

"The narrative that some companies will try to get you to believe is: 'I've got to take all of your data to make my service better.' Well, don't believe them," Cook told Vice.

"Whoever's telling you that, it's a bunch of bunk," he added.

Cook's company has long taken a distinctive approach to privacy and continues to roll out new hardware that makes it more difficult for external bodies (and Apple itself) to access user information. As of Oct. 3, 2018, the $1 trillion company upped that agenda, enforcing a new privacy policy that requires all apps to communicate how users' personal data will be used.

Facebook and Google, meanwhile, have come under fire over their treatment of customer data and the knock on effects for democratic society. Most notable is Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal and the potential implications that had for the 2016 U.S. election.

Some argue that Apple's more conservative approach is damaging to the development of core products like Siri, especially in the face of fierce competition from Amazon's Alexa. But Cook reiterated to Vice the company's "collect as little data as possible" stance, saying he considers privacy "one of the most important issues of the 21st century."

The tech CEO added that he is not typically a "pro-regulation kind of person," but he would be willing to work with lawmakers to educate them and ensure that tech companies create products that are "great for society."

"I think some level of government regulation is important to come out on that," Cook told Vice.

No privacy infringement in China

Apple itself came under fire earlier this year about its commitment to user privacy following its decision to begin hosting Chinese users' iCloud accounts in a new data center within China's borders.

Critics argued that the move would give Chinese authorities easier access to text messages, email and other data stored in the cloud, thereby potentially quashing users' freedom of speech.

Cook insisted to Vice, however, that Apple's encryption policies are "the same in every country" and that the company continues to have ultimate control.

"I wouldn't get caught up in where's the location of it," Cook told the news organization. "We have servers located in many different countries in the world. They're not easier to get data from being in one country versus the next."

No coordination on removal of Alex Jones

Cook's wide-ranging interview with Vice also touched on Apple's decision in August to remove content from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform.

The move by Apple was followed in quick succession by the likes of Facebook and Alphabet's YouTube, though Cook said there was no coordination on the issue.

"We make out decisions independently," he told Vice.

Cook added that Apple strives to curate content from across the political spectrum, but said there was "enough there" in Alex Jones' content that "reasonable people" would agree it ought to be removed.

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