Skip to main content

Tim Cook doesn't want Apple to be a 'treasure trove' of user data for the NSA

Tim Cook doesn't want Apple to be a 'treasure trove' of user data for the NSA

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Apple's privacy and security measures have been under a microscope for the past month, first with a targeted attack on celebrities that led to leaked nude photos, and now on Apple's own systems as the company gears up to handle people's credit cards as part of Apple Pay. Talking to journalist Charlie Rose in the second half of a two-part interview that concludes tonight, Apple CEO Tim Cook says that the company has no interest in accumulating information about its customers, while urging caution about any companies that do:

Our business is not based on having information about you. You're not our product. Our product are these, and this watch, and Macs, and so forth. And so we run a very different company. I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? Follow the money. And if they're making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what's happening to that data, and the companies — I think — should be very transparent.

Cook adds that the company does not read user emails or iMessages, and that its goal is to avoid being "the treasure trove of places to come to," when it gets requests from the National Security Agency for any user data. "We have hundreds and millions of customers. So it's a very rare instance that there's been any data asked," Cook told Rose. "And one of the reasons is, we don't keep a lot. We're not the treasure trove of places to come to."

"I think they erred too much on the collect everything side."

A larger problem, Cook says, is that the government's approach to data collection.

"I don't think that the country, or the government's found the right balance," Cook says. "I think they erred too much on the collect everything side. And I think the president and the administration is commited to kind of moving that pendulum back."

The first part of the interview aired last Friday, and had Cook discussing iPhone sizes, competitors like Google and Amazon, iCloud security, the company's social networking ambitions (or a lack thereof), and the promise of products still in the works that we haven't even heard of yet. The second half, which airs tonight on PBS focused primarily on Apple's ideology, with Cook discussing privacy, human rights, and the environment.