Apple CEO Cook Sees No Hypocrisy Taking Google's Billions While Bashing Its Privacy Policies

Tim Cook
When it comes to big data, Apple CEO Tim Cook has drawn a line in the sand with regards to what it will and will not do when it comes to customer data. Apple vows not to share its customer data with third-parties and takes great pain to store as much customer user data in a secure enclave on-device with products like the iPhone instead of sending information to its servers.

Because of this policy, Cook has been rather outspoken about criticizing tech giants like Google and Facebook for their lapses in protecting user data. With that in mind, in an interview with Axios on HBO, Cook was asked why Apple feels comfortable taking billions from Google to place it as the default search engine on its hardware products while at the same time bashing Google's privacy policies.

In Cook's mind, it's all about providing the best user experience to Apple's customers, and that means that Google is the way to go. ”I think their search engine is the best," said Cook. "Look at what we’ve done with the controls we’ve built in. We have private web browsing. We have an intelligent tracker prevention.

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"What we’ve tried to do is come up with ways to help our users through their course of the day. It’s not a perfect thing. I’d be the very first person to say that. But it goes a long way to helping.”

In other words, it seems as though Cook is saying that Google has a host of issues with regards to user tracking and user privacy, but Apple has built controls into iOS and macOS (mainly via Safari) which help to alleviate those concerns. But in the end, Apple is still feeding the beast that it loves to bark at whenever the next privacy snafu hits the airwaves.

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It was reported back in late September that Apple stands to rake in as much as $9 billion from Google in 2018 to make Google Search the default provider in iOS and macOS Safari. That figure could surge to a whopping $12 billion in 2019. This is easy money for Apple, and requires little effort on its part because the company knows that Google wants/needs the lucrative search traffic that iPhone and macOS users will generate. 

There is, however, a counterargument that could be made. It's also possible that Cook is using leverage to get Google to change its policies to be more proactive about protecting user privacy. Of course, that's easier said than done given how Google generates the bulk of its revenue, but losing out on its "default" status on iOS alone could be detrimental to its bottom line.

Earlier this year, Cook slammed tech giants that horde massive amounts of personal data on its users in an MSNBC interview, stating, "We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers, if our customers were our product. We’ve elected not to do that. We’re not going to traffic in your personal life. Privacy to us is a human right, a civil liberty."