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Apple CEO Tim Cook On Data Privacy, Immigration, and Speaking Out

June 26, 2018, 2:35 AM UTC

Apple CEO Tim Cook is unafraid to speak his mind on issues ranging from data privacy and immigration to human rights and the environment.

Cook said on Monday at the 2018 Fortune CEO Initiative conference in San Francisco that the tech giant is willing to take stances on sensitive political and business topics, as long as they are relevant to the company’s core beliefs and ideals.

It’s “not enough to be a large company” that simply comments on today’s hot button issues, Cook said. Instead, Cook believes that “we should only speak when we have certain knowledge to bring to the subject.”

That’s partly why Cook recently publicly rebuked President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration policy that led to children being detained and separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Like many tech companies, Cook said that Apple has benefited over the years from thousands of immigrants with H-1B visas who came to work at the company.

It’s too often when discussing immigration that people tend to focus specifically on “numbers,” he said. “But there’s real people behind this that have real feelings.”

Cook also doubled down on Apple’s approach to digital privacy, which stands in contrast to some of its big tech competitors like Facebook and Google, whose ad businesses depend on collecting information about users.

He said that Apple didn’t start preaching digital privacy because of intense media scrutiny in recent months, but has instead put the issue front and center for some time. Cook didn’t name any company in particular, but he has previously criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the social networking giant’s online ad model that’s come under fire in recent months over a number of data privacy mishaps.

“We felt strongly about privacy when no one cared,” Cooks said. “This wasn’t something we woke up and said, ‘The media is focused on privacy, let’s do that.’”

Cook said that Apple executives predicted that the creation of “detailed” online profiles about users “would result in significant harm over time” and that those profiles could be “used for too many nefarious things.”

Though Apple has many opinions on hot topics, Cook said that the company focuses on policy issues rather than supporting any particular political party or candidate.

“Apple does not give one dollar to any political campaign,” said Cook. He’s especially critical of political action committees (PACs) that combine campaign contributions from numerous entities.

“I strongly disagree with companies or the whole concept of PACs in general, of people who don’t vote putting money in political campaigns,” Cook said.

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Asked about his now seven-year stint as CEO of the world’s most valuable company, and how much time he would continue in his current role, Cook hinted that he still believes he has some more years left.

“It’s a privilege of a lifetime to be at Apple and lead the company,” Cook said. “And hopefully I got some good time left.”