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Tim Cook: Facebook's Cambridge Analytica consumer data debacle forces tech industry beyond self-regulation

Speaking on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized Facebook for its mishandling and commercialization of consumer data, and again concedes that the time may be past for self-regulation of how companies handle personal information.




"I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation," Cook said in answer to a question posed about Facebook. "However, I think we're beyond that here."

Cook said that it would not only been better for Facebook, but for the tech industry as a whole had Facebook controlled use of data "patched together from several sources." He also made a point of mentioning that Apple doesn't consider consumer data a source of income.

"The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product," Cook said. "We've elected not to do that."

Cook refused a detailed answer on how he would deal with the problem if he was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying that he "wouldn't be in this situation."

Cook has notably in the past obliquely referred to companies' use of consumer data, noting that if a product was free, then the consumer —and all associated data —was the product paying for the service.

Cook was pressed on where the line was for Facebook's behavior as it applies to App Store rules.

In his reply, Cook clarified exactly what Apple's review process is there for —to ensure that the app itself meets the App Store guidelines, as well as the submitting company's own specified privacy policy. In short, Apple doesn't decide if any other company's privacy policy is good or bad, just as long as they abide by it.

In Facebook's case, they technically followed the privacy policy that they laid out, but users didn't necessarily understand the scope of data that had been collected, nor were the others gathered in the sweep informed. It also appears that Android has far further privacy implications for users than those on iOS, with many Android users having entire call logs recorded, something that Apple's iOS protected users from.

Cook hypothesized that maybe further regulation would be able to better shape Facebook's privacy policy.

The FTC is probing Facebook following the revelation that the UK-based Cambridge Analytica acquired the data of as many as 50 million Facebook users, reports Bloomberg, which may have been misused to influence a number of political events world-wide.

In a post on March 21, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher at the center of the scandal, had accessed data of 300,000 Facebook users with permission when he created a personality quiz back in 2013. In doing so, the users who took the poll gave up information on millions of connections without their permission with to Cambridge Analytica under the guise of an academic account, and not a commercial one.

Kogan shared that harvested data with Cambridge Analytica, with some debate over whether or not Cambridge Analytica deleted the data even after promising Facebook that it had done so.

In the wake of the revelations, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica and parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories for violating the site's Terms of Service, specifically rules about the collection and retention of data.

Cook's remarks on Wednesday were part of an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Recode's Kara Swisher. The session will form part of the "Revolution" episode airing on April 6, with members of the public also in attendance at the free taping.

The "Revolution" series interviews the leaders of major tech companies, discussing their impact on different areas of life. The first installment took place in January and featured Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki talking about their respective Alphabet organizations.

Today's interview location at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago, IL. was the venue for yesterday's Apple's 'Field Trip' event, where the company revealed a number of hardware and software products, including a new iPad, that could help improve the education of students.