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Tim Cook expects 'inevitable' privacy legislation, values user privacy as an Apple core value

An interview previously recorded with Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple Park aired on Sunday night, with the executive telling Axios' Ina Fried and Mike Allen that he sees privacy regulation of tech as an inevitability.

Tim Cook on HBO

Tim Cook on HBO


Fried challenged Cook to answer why Apple takes Google's money to be the default search engine when Google's business explicitly relies on making money off of user data.

"We've been having a national discussion on tech and privacy, you guys have been a loud proponent of privacy, it fits in well with what you do," asked Fried. "How concerning is to you that even if it's other people's technology, Facebook, Google, whomever, it's happening still on your devices?"

Tim Cook reiterated that privacy is a core value, not ancillary to their business, and he named some of the features Apple implemented to act on that core value.



"It's not that it fits in with what we do, it's that this is a core value of ours," said Cook. "If you look back over time, we were talking about privacy well before iPhone, so we've always believed that privacy was at the core of our civil liberties. This is not a matter of privacy versus profits or privacy versus technical innovation, that's a false choice. What we've done is, your device has incredible intelligence about you, but I don't have to have all of that as a company."

Fried pushed back, asking about Google's positioning as the search engine for iOS.

"You don't directly have a big advertising business or make a lot of money off the data, but Google pays you on the order of billions of dollars a year to be the default search engine and they do have that business," pressed Fried. "If you really want the user to be totally free, why take that money?"

"Well, one, I think their search engine is the best, and that's very important, but two, look at what we've done with the controls that we've built in. We have private web browsing. We have an intelligent tracker prevention," answered Cook. "So what we've tried to do is come up with ways to help our users through the course of their day, and it is not a perfect thing, I'd be the very first person to say that. But it goes along way to helping."

Then the discussion turned to government regulation of user privacy.

"So, there's broad support for more federal regulation of tech," asked Mike Allen. "Do you think that's inevitable?"

"Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of regulation, 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," responded Cook. "I think it's inevitable that there will be some level of regulation."

Cook has spoken in favor of federal regulation in the past and called for the US to consider legislation, outlining four key points that any legislation should contain.

In this interview on the Apple Park campus, Cook discussed his screentime habits. Cook also continued to position Augmented Reality as a game-changing technology, by demonstrating an AR landscaping application for positioning of trees in AR on the Apple Park lawn.

"Technology should amplify human performance and human experiences, and AR arguably does an unbelievable job at that, and I think it's going to change everything," Cook reiterated on the AR. "I think in a few years, we're not going to be able to imagine our lives without [augmented reality]. It's that profound a platform."

Cook was also asked about the male-dominated workforce and ensuing culture in Silicon Valley. Apple's CEO is expecting change on that front, soon.

"I think the Valley has been open and accepting to many different people from many different walks of life, but I agree 100% from a gender point of view that the Valley has missed it, and tech in general has missed it," said Cook. "I know for one, we spend a lot of energy on this, and are constantly asking ourselves how can we improve more and listening to what our folks tell us, and I got to believe other folks are doing this too, so I'm actually encouraged at this point, that there will be more marked improvement over time."

Axios teased the interview earlier on Sunday. At present, the full interview is not available on any venue other than HBO streaming services.