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Apple CEO Tim Cook pounds the privacy drum in wake of Facebook scandal

Apple CEO Tim Cook pounds the privacy drum in wake of Facebook scandal


‘Everyone should know what they’re doing. Everyone should know what they’re giving up.’

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Apple chief executive Tim Cook spoke out on privacy during an MSNBC interview hosted by Chris Hayes and Recode’s Kara Swisher earlier today, saying that services that “[traffic] in your personal lives” are invading peoples’ privacy and emphasizing that Apple sees privacy as a “human right” and a “civil liberty.” He also said that he finds it “creepy” when “all of a sudden something is chasing me around the web,” referring to sophisticated ad targeting.

Cook’s remarks come just as Facebook’s own chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is reportedly expected to testify before Congress around the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal. Facebook has been caught in a medial maelstrom over its lax approach to data sharing; specifically over the Cambridge Analytica issue, through which it was recently revealed that Facebook users’ data was being used by the firm with the intent to influence the 2016 US election.

MSNBC’s Hayes and Recode’s Swisher pressed Cook on the issue of privacy and regulation, which sparked the remarks from Cook.

“We’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people, that have incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources, should exist,” Cook said. Later, he added that those detailed profiles of consumers “can be abused against our democracy. It can be abused by advertisers as well.”

Apple has long touted privacy as one of the draws of being in the Apple ecosystem, and Cook underscored this again, claiming that Apple “could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers” but that the company has elected not to do it.

When asked specifically about the potential regulation of tech companies that are collecting and using consumer data, sometimes without a clear explanation of what that data is being used for, Cook said he’s “personally not a fan of regulation.”

“I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self regulation. Regulation can have unexpected consequences, right? However, I think we’re beyond that,” Cook continued. “I do think it’s time that a set of people think deeply about what can be done.” The remarks echoed what he said in China over the weekend, when Cook described Facebook’s current predicament as “dire” and suggested “some well-crafted regulation is necessary.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t necessarily seem opposed to that idea.

Despite what Cook said directly, and obliquely, about Facebook, the fact remains that Facebook is an app in Apple’s App Store. Apple has policies of what is and isn’t allowed there, and so Hayes and Swisher pressed him on whether Facebook’s privacy issues might lead Apple to do something with that power.

“The question for us is, [does Facebook] meet the requirements of the App Store and do they meet their policy,” Cook answered. “I think well-crafted regulation could change that. If that happened or if we raised the bar some ... we would have to look at it.”

And when Cook was asked what he would do if he were in Zuckerberg’s shoes amid all this controversy, Apple’s chief executive was incredibly direct. “I wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said. 

The full interview will air on MSNBC on April 6th.