Apple CEO Tim Cook calls for privacy regulation

In an exclusive interview with Christiane Amanpour, Apple CEO Tim Cook says that privacy as an issue is at a "crisis" level across all sectors.

Posted: Oct 25, 2018 6:32 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2018 6:55 AM

Apple CEO Tim Cook wants governments around the world to restrict how much data companies can collect from their customers.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour at an Apple Store in Brussels, Cook pushed for comprehensive privacy legislation. He argued that big-pocketed corporations have created surveillance operations that promote profit over customers' ability to control their own information.

"You have more information in your devices than in your own home," he said. "All of this information that is out there is too much. It is just too much. It should not exist."

Apple (AAPL) tried but had little success building a digital advertising business. Google, Apple's archrival, has built virtually its entire business around collecting customer data then packaging and selling it to advertisers.

Cook said he has no issue with the kind of digital advertising championed by Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB). But he believes some data collection has crossed the line, particularly the formation of deep digital profiles that Cook claims know more about people than they know about themselves.

Privacy is a basic human right, Cook said. That's why, he claims, Apple decided data collection was against its values and the company sought a different business model.

Cook said he's not just pushing for technology companies to be regulated.

He said all companies depend on technology to gain insights about their customers.

At the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels on Wednesday, Cook lauded the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, and he pushed for a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.

Apple was embroiled in a privacy controversy earlier this month after Bloomberg reported the Chinese government secretly placed data collection chips in Apple hardware. Cook acknowledged to Amanpour that he sleeps "with an eye open," but he firmly denied Bloomberg's reporting.

"It is 100% a lie. There is no truth to it," Cook said. "There's no malicious chip."

A spokesperson for Bloomberg could not be reached for comment.

On taxes and tariffs

Cook said he doesn't participate in politics because he "disdains" it, but he enjoys advocating for good policy.

For example, the Apple CEO, like most American CEOs, claims the US tax cuts were good for the economy -- but he's no fan of tariffs.

He defended Apple's controversial tax arrangement with Ireland that has created a kind of tax haven for the company. The European Union is suing Apple and Ireland for billions of dollars in back taxes spanning more than a decade.

Cook claimed Apple is following the law, as written: Tax revenue on American intellectual property should be paid to the United States.

"Until that law changes, we will follow the law," Cook said, although he acknowledged "valid points of view" about changes to the tax law. He did not, however, agree with the European Union that Apple's tax setup was illegal.

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