Tim Cook Says Apple, Unlike Facebook, Doesn’t View Customers As The Product

With Facebook continuing to take a public beating following revelations about its questionable data-protection practices, Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday piled on the social media giant by insisting that his company has made a conscious decision not to treat customers as if they are a product.

“The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product,” Cook said in an interview with MSNBC and Recode. “We’ve elected not to do that.”

Tim Cook Tim Cook says Apple doesn’t treat its customers as a product like Facebook does. Photo: Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The message is a thinly veiled shot at Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who have come under fire in recent weeks over reports that the company allowed a political data analytics firm to gain access to the data of more than 50 million Facebook users without explicit permission.

In 2014, Facebook allowed a third-party application to access the data of users and their friends, even though the friends never consented to having their information exposed to the app. That data was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which used the information to target political ads. The firm provided digital operations for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In the interview, Cook said that he would prefer companies like Facebook and others that rely on data to curb their use of user’s personal information used to create “detailed profiles of people…patched together from several sources.”

By contrast, Cook insisted that collecting personal data has never been part of Apple’s business model. “We’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people that have incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources should exist,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

When asked what he would do if he found himself in the same position as Zuckerberg, Cook said, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Cook also encouraged companies like Facebook and Google to take action on their own to limit their data reliance, though noted it might be too little, too late. “I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation,” he said. “However, I think we’re beyond that here.”

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