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Apple Requested 'Zero' Personal Data In Deals With Facebook, CEO Tim Cook Says

Tim Cook visited the NPR offices in Washington, D.C., in 2015. On Monday, he spoke with NPR about Apple users' privacy and the importance of trade to global relationships.
Ariel Zambelich
Tim Cook visited the NPR offices in Washington, D.C., in 2015. On Monday, he spoke with NPR about Apple users' privacy and the importance of trade to global relationships.

"We've never been in the data business," Apple CEO Tim Cook told NPR on Monday, responding to a report that Facebook struck agreements giving Apple and other device makers access to Facebook users' personal information.

Information on users' relationship status, religion and political leaning is among the private data that became available under partnerships between Facebook and at least 60 device makers, The New York Times reported.

"The things mentioned in the Times article about relationship statuses and all these kinds of stuff, this is so foreign to us, and not data that we have ever received at all or requested — zero," Cook told NPR's Steve Inskeep and Laura Sydell during the company's annual conference for developers in San Jose, Calif.

"What we did was we integrated the ability to share in the operating system, make it simple to share a photo and that sort of thing," Cook added. "So it's a convenience for the user. We weren't in the data business. We've never been in the data business."

Cook has become a public advocate for privacy, calling it a "fundamental human right." He has spoken out against the business model of rival big tech companies, such as Facebook, which profits from targeting advertising to users based on personal data. Apple's business model relies on selling hardware and services.

Earlier on Monday, Apple announced a new app to allow users to get reports on how much their kids are using particular apps on their iPhones and iPads.

The Screen Time app will let parents set time limits on how long their children can use apps, from Netflix to Snapchat, said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering. Screen Time would also allow parents to limit access to some apps and websites. One option is designed to get kids to unplug from their devices at bedtime.

"We have never been about maximizing the number of times you pick [the device] up, the number of hours that you use it," Cook told NPR.

"All of these things are great conveniences of life," he said. "They change your daily life in a great way. But if you're getting bombarded by notifications all day long, that's probably a use of the system that might not be so good anymore."

The new feature will be part of the next Apple mobile operating system, iOS 12, which is expected out later this year.

In the interview, Cook spoke about the potential for an escalating trade war, as the Trump administration moves to impose tariffs on key U.S. trading partners.

"Countries that have a significant level of openness ... are the [countries] that thrive over time," Cook said.

"Trade brings people closer together ... and I think that's true about countries as well," he added. "It helps a set of broader issues when there's trade going on."

Cook has been Apple's CEO since August 2011 and is the first CEO to run the company since the death of founder Steve Jobs.

Cook's soft-spoken Alabama accent and genteel Southern style is a marked contrast to Jobs, who had a dynamic and electrifying presence on stage when he introduced new products.

Cook's critics say the company hasn't brought such groundbreaking hardware to the market under his leadership. Yet, under Cook, the value of Apple stock has nearly tripled and is fast approaching $1 trillion.

The products introduced under Cook, such as the Apple Watch and Apple's HomePod smart speaker, haven't made the kinds of waves that previous devices did. But analysts say Apple Watch sales are far outpacing other leaders in the wearable market such as Fitbit. Cook is also responsible for introducing Apple Pay and he's significantly increased Apple revenue with services such as music and cloud storage.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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