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Apple CEO Tim Cook worries that a slow loss of privacy in today's world will gradually train people and coerce them into acting differently as they adjust to a new normal.
Apple's CEO spoke about the fears he holds in a landscape where devices are progressively better at tracking its users. His remarks were made at the Time100 summit, on Tuesday.
"If we begin to feel that we're being surveilled all the time, our behavior changes. We begin to do less. We begin to think about things less. We begin to modify how we think," said Cook in the panel. "In a world like that where we're restraining ourselves, it changes society in a major way."
Cook said that while he is concerned about the future of privacy, he remains optimistic. He described how Apple is in effect providing tools to help users secure their own data and private lifestyle.
Apple, under Cook's leadership, has continued what Steve Jobs started. In the last few years, the company has put a marketing focus on the privacy the Apple ecosystem offers.
A recent example is series of ads highlighting how the iPhone protects user data.
Apple is one of the few big tech companies that had not pursued a business model where personal data is used to drive profit. While Apple does collect user data to train its machine-learning models, it uses the data fully anonymized, stripping it of all personal information.
Cook believes, and has said repeatedly, that giving up some privacy in highly-specific ways in certain settings might be beneficial. However, he ultimately argues that people should have ownership of their data and to be able to keep it private.
"It's tough to say that a company or anyone for that matter, should be able to step in and on an uninformed basis vacuum up your data," Cook added, "That's a large concern of mine."