Future Tense

Tim Cook Takes a Dig at Facebook, Preaches Apple’s Patriotism

Apple CEO Tim Cook again calls for privacy regulations for companies like Facebook.
Apple CEO Tim Cook again calls for privacy regulations for companies like Facebook. JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook had some harsh words for Facebook and defended his company’s manufacturing practices during an interview with Recode and MSNBC on Wednesday. The full interview won’t air until April 6*, but Recode published some excerpts on its website.

Cook doubled down on his previous calls for regulating data privacy amid Facebook’s recent scandal involving political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica accessing private info from more than 50 million accounts. When Recode’s Kara Swisher asked Cook what he would do if he were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Apple executive responded, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Apple has largely avoided relying on using consumer data for advertising as a major revenue stream, instead focusing on its hardware. As Cook claimed in the interview, “The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer—if our customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that.”

Given that Facebook and other social media companies have built business models around monetizing personal data, Cook suggested that it may be time for the government to step in. “I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation. However, I think we’re beyond that here,” he said. He made similar remarks on Saturday at the China Development Forum in Beijing, advocating for policies that would prohibit companies from assembling and employing users’ data without them knowing.

Cook also responded in the interview to a common criticism that Apple is shirking American manufacturers by building its iPhones in China. Trump notably attacked Apple on the campaign trail in 2016 for using Chinese factories but later made nice with the company when Cook cited the president’s tax cuts as a motivation for investing $30 billion in the U.S. and hiring 20,000 more workers.

Cook claimed to Recode and MSNBC that the company’s detractors “fixate” on the fact that the final assembly for the devices is done in China, but ignore the manufacturing of certain components in the U.S. For example, glass for the iPhone’s screen is built in Kentucky. “We are building things in the United States,” Cook said, “It’s not true that iPhone isn’t built in the United States.”

He further dismissed the idea that the company needs “political pressure” to employ more Americans and added, “We know that Apple could only have been created in the United States. We love this country. We’re patriots. This is our country. Want to create as many jobs in the U.S. as we can.”

Recode posted additional responses from Cook’s interview on Twitter:

*Correction, March 28, 2018: This piece originally misstated that Tim Cook’s interview with Recode and MSNBC won’t air until Friday. It is scheduled to air on April 6.