Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke with Ina Fried and Mike Allen for an Axios interview exclusively on HBO. It covered several areas of interest for Apple watchers. One of the most important questions from the interviewers had to do with Apple’s apparent hypocrisy with regard to its stance on privacy.
Fried wanted to know if Cook felt Apple bore some responsibility for the privacy breaches of others such as Facebook and Google since those breaches often happen on Apple-made devices. AppleInsider relates Cooks response briefly outlining Apple’s stance on privacy.
“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.”
Critics will no doubt find reasons to question Cook’s logic. First, there need not be a default browser at startup. It could be a user option during setup just as it is an option to use location services. So Apple doesn’t have to take Google’s money and bless them in the way that they do.
Furthermore, Apple has taken principled stances on other Google products that were demonstrably better such as Google Maps. Apple famously stopped using the superior maps as a default and lived with the consequences to protect users.
There is also the matter of China. It is hard for a company to make privacy their North star when their #1 customer is China: a country with diametrically opposed positions on matters such as privacy and human rights.
This is not to say that Apple does not genuinely care about user privacy. It is to say that Apple is a company that picks its battles. It just so happens that with regard to Google, there are billions of dollars on the line giving interviewers and critics reason to question how Apple picks them.
In the interview, Cook also mentioned the “inevitability” of some type of privacy regulations. Such regulations are already happening in the EU. The US is slower to act in ways that limit corporations in the free market capitalistic system. But there is little doubt that some sort of corporate regulations concerning privacy will happen next year.
As far as hints into Apple’s product future, Cook once again teased augmented reality as an area of intense interest. Apple Glasses, anyone?