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Apple CEO Tim Cook Says Company Hasn't Collected Data Available From Facebook


Today NPR spoke directly with Apple CEO Tim Cook about the revelations that hardware makers had access to personal data in the Facebook app. NPR's Laura Sydell was there and joins us now. Hi, Laura.


SHAPIRO: So what did Tim Cook say about this New York Times report that Apple may have had access to personal data collected by Facebook?

SYDELL: Well, he doesn't deny that Apple may very well have had access to this information, but he says they would have no reason to use it. They wouldn't bother to collect it. And here he is responding specifically. He was talking with me and NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

TIM COOK: The things mentioned in the Times article about relationship statuses and all this kind of stuff - this is so foreign to us and not data that we have ever received at all or requested - zero. 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. So it's a convenience for the user. We weren't in the data business. We've never been in the data business.

SYDELL: You know, Apple makes hardware. It's the core of Apple's business. They have some services. They have Apple Pay. They have music. But it really isn't important to Apple to collect a lot of data on you so they can target average advertising to you.

SHAPIRO: So is Tim Cook opposed to the Facebook model of a free service with online advertising?

SYDELL: You know, he didn't say he was opposed to it. He said it's a question of degree. You shouldn't just be randomly collecting as much data from people as possible. You can still have fairly targeted ads without excessively collecting personal information.

SHAPIRO: OK, so Apple is not in the data business. This all happened during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. Did they make any announcements related to this?

SYDELL: Well, I should be clear that, you know, Tim Cook has been very critical of Facebook's model which relies on just collecting lots and lots of information. And today they actually took steps that could make it a little harder for Facebook to collect data on people who are using Macs or Apple products.

So Apple has made it easier to keep your computer anonymous while you're searching the web if you're using their browser. So if you visit a particular site, often sites are able to see unique identifiers for your computer, and then they follow you around after you leave the site. So Apple found a way to mitigate that. So it now says your computer could look like any other Mac. In addition, Apple says when your browser is searching the web, they've made it more difficult for, say, a company like Facebook to track where you go, and that is definitely a way that Facebook collects information.

Later when we spoke with Tim Cook, we asked, did they introduce this as a way to directly target Facebook? And he said, no, they're simply just trying to give their users more privacy, and that may affect Facebook.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Laura Sydell speaking with us from Silicon Valley. Thanks, Laura.

SYDELL: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.