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Apple CEO Tim Cook on Facebook data leak: Regulation is necessary

Facebook’s data leak sent the company stock (FB) plunging more than 10% in the past week and raised heated debate on the tech company’s privacy policy and whether it – and other firms that collect user data – should be more heavily regulated. On Saturday, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook commented on the issue, calling for “well-crafted” regulations at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing.

“We’ve worried for a number of years that people in many countries were giving up data probably without knowing fully what they were doing, and that these detailed profiles that were being built of them, that one day something would occur and people would be incredibly offended by what had been done without them being aware of it. Unfortunately, that prediction has come true more than once,” Cook said when asked about the Facebook data misuse by Cambridge Analytica. “I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary.”

Apple has emphasized security and privacy as an important selling point in its products. Unlike Google or Facebook, whose revenue is driven by ads, Apple mainly makes money by selling premium devices like iPads and iPhones. Cook finds the idea of collecting data and selling them to marketers unacceptable.

“The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist,” Cook said.

Apple’s business model is different

Unlike other tech giants like Facebook and Google, Apple says it doesn’t profit from collecting user data. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Unlike other tech giants like Facebook and Google, Apple says it doesn’t profit from collecting user data. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Cook said he has been careful of inviting government regulations. Back in 2016, Apple had a well-known dispute with the FBI over obtaining access to an iPhone used by a shooter in the San Bernardino attack. Though the FBI ultimately broke into the phone without Apple’s help, Apple pledged it would go to court to protect user privacy. Last year, Sen. Al Franken raised privacy issues on the iPhone X’s Face ID authentication technology. Apple soon responded by clarifying the data would never be sent to Apple, nor is it included in device backups.

It’s not the first time that Cook has critiqued peer tech companies. In an open letter in 2014, he emphasized that Apple doesn’t build profiles of its users from their email content or browsing habits “to sell to advertisers,” essentially calling out Google and Facebook.

“Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products,” he wrote. “We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t ‘monetize’ the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you.”

Krystal Hu covers technology and economy for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter

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