During a meeting with Jill Biden and political spouses, Tim Cook found himself in the position of having to uphold Apple’s privacy policies in response to allegations of active surveillance targeting Apple Watch users.
Last Friday, Apple CEO Tim Cook hosted a discussion on mental health for political leaders’ spouses at Apple Park, coinciding with a summit on US-Pacific issues. Despite the potentially casual nature of the event, the hour-long gathering gave rise to some controversy.
Cook welcomed Jill Biden, First Lady Kim Keon-hee of South Korea, Rachel Marape of Papua New Guinea, First Lady Luis Araneta-Marcos of the Philippines, Dr Wan Azizah Binti Wan Ismail of Malaysia, and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. The attendance also included Blackpink singer Rose.
According to reports, the conversation generally revolved around mental health and social media, encompassing discussions on the impact of social media on public figures and the significance of connections and coping mechanisms highlighted by the Covid pandemic. As per The Daily Mail, the topics covered a wide spectrum.
As the meeting drew to a close, Dr Wan Azizah Binti Wan Ismail inquired about the influence of AI on mental health issues and pressed Cook on Apple’s actions regarding privacy concerns. Tactlessly, she remarked, “If you ever have an Apple Watch, you’re being monitored constantly.”
Initially, Cook responded by stating, “Not really at all,” asserting that Apple is a “privacy company” and explaining the underlying rationale, emphasizing the company’s belief in privacy as an essential human right.
The discussion touched on Apple’s policies, emphasizing minimal information collection, on-device data gathering and storage, and encryption. Cook reiterated, “Apple doesn’t even see them. We can’t see them. And if anyone wants to get it from us, we don’t have it. It’s data we never collect.”
Ismail raised concerns about the potential impact on mental health if data were to be extracted from Apple’s hardware.
In response, Cook argued, “We recognize that one of our most crucial responsibilities is to provide individuals with privacy and security. These two aspects go hand in hand.”