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Tim Cook defends multibillion-dollar Google search deal despite Apple’s privacy focus

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‘I think their search engine is the best’

Apple Holds Launch Event In Brooklyn Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook has defended his company’s deal with Google, despite his prior criticism of the search giant for its cavalier attitude toward user data. The comments, which were broadcast as part of an interview on Axios on HBO, came in response to Cook being asked why he was comfortable taking billions of dollars from Google to make it Apple’s default search engine, despite wanting to protect user privacy.

In response to the question, Cook emphasized the security and privacy measures that Apple builds directly into its Safari browser while still allowing its users access to “the best” search engine.

”I think their [Google’s] search engine is the best. Look at what we’ve done with the controls we’ve built in. We have private web browsing,” Cook said. “We have an intelligent tracker prevention. What we’ve tried to do is come up with ways to help our users through their course of the day. It’s not a perfect thing. I’d be the very first person to say that. But it goes a long way to helping.”

Apple reportedly makes anywhere from $3 to $9 billion from its deal with Google, which sees its search engine made the default on Apple’s Safari browser, Siri web search, and elsewhere. Privacy-focused search engines — like DuckDuckGo — exist, but for Apple, the bump in services revenue from Google coupled with a modicum of Safari controls seems to trump privacy concerns.

Last month, Cook warned that “our own information is being weaponized against us with military efficiency” while calling for comprehensive US privacy laws. On Sunday, he told Axios that some level of government regulation over Silicon Valley was inevitable. “I’m a big believer in the free market, but we have to admit when the free market’s not working. And it hasn’t worked here. I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation.”