Apple CEO Tim Cook says he worries that people will become “restrained” and begin thinking and behaving differently as they lose their sense of privacy in a world where digital devices and technology become more and more adept at tracking their movements.
“I fear deeply the loss of privacy,” he told TIME executive editor John Simons Tuesday at the TIME100 Summit. “If we begin to feel that we’re being surveilled all the time, our behavior changes. We begin to do less. We begin to think about things less. We begin to modify how we think. In a world like that where we’re restraining ourselves, it changes society in a major way.”
Cook went on to say that it’s difficult to argue that people shouldn’t own their own private data. “It’s tough to say that a company, or anyone for that matter, should be able to step in and on an uninformed basis vacuum up your data,” he said. “That’s a large concern of mine.”
Apple has made protecting privacy—at least for its Western customers—the centerpiece of its marketing strategy, as it works to differentiate itself from the other big Silicon Valley players like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, whose business models thrive on leveraging users’ personal data.
Cook also spoke about his decision to publicly come out as gay in 2014, explaining that he made the choice despite knowing it would lead to a loss of his own privacy. “The reason I did this is because I wanted to help young people. I saw what was going on was the LGBTQ community was being bullied terribly,” he said. “I thought if I can only help one person by telling the world that I’m gay and that I’m proud of it, that I should do it and put my own desire for privacy to the side.”
When asked what calculations went into his decision, Cook said he weighed a number of different things: “How people would hear it, how people would perceive it. I did worry about it pulling attention off of our products and what we’re about. But at the end of the day, I felt like I was in a position to do a lot of good….The big downside was my own privacy. It was something I was giving up myself, so you could sort of see that trade-off I was going to make.”
The TIME100 Summit is the live event extension of the annual TIME100 list of the most influential people in the world. It convenes leaders from the global TIME100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world. This year’s summit features a variety of impactful speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.
Speakers for the 2022 TIME100 Summit include producer Mindy Kaling, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates, filmmaker Taika Waititi, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, musician Jon Batiste, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, NBA champion, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Dwayne Wade, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, ACLU deputy director for transgender justice Chase Strangio, Christian Siriano founder and creative director Christian Siriano, Brother Vellies founder and creative director Aurora James, Netflix head of global TV Bela Bajaria, author and poet Cathy Park Hong, Olympic freestyle skiing champion Eileen Gu, author, poet, and Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander, filmmaker Betsy West, filmmaker Julie Cohen, BioNTech SE senior vice president Dr. Katalin Karikó, Ukrayinska Pravda editor in chief Sevgil Musaieva, and TIME co-chair and Salesforce chair and co-CEO Marc Benioff.
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