Tim Cook on tariffs, immigration and whether we spend too much time on our iPhones
As tech companies face increased scrutiny, Apple is putting a focus on user privacy and making changes to some of its most well-known products. At Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference, the company announced it's developing new protections for users, showed off updated versions of iOS, and said goodbye to iTunes.
Those rollouts come at a critical time for the company, as sales of its iPhone continue to sag and the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China threatens its core business. In an exclusive interview with incoming "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell, CEO Tim Cook addressed everything from fake news to tariffs.
Below is an extended portion of their conversation:
NORAH O'DONNELL: You spent a lot of time talking about privacy and security.
TIM COOK: Yeah.
COOK: Because I think it's one of the most important issues of the century. We see privacy as a fundamental human right. And we're very worried that the place that we're all in right now is a place that has dire consequences. And you can see some of those that have played out over the last several years, and the awareness is building. But basically we want to give tools to users to protect their privacy. I mean, there is extraordinary amounts of detailed information about people, that I don't think should really exist, that are out there today.
O'DONNELL: When I listened to that today, that new innovation of that Apple sign-on, I thought, this is Apple taking a shot at the way Facebook and Google is using all of our data.
COOK: You know, we're not really taking a shot at anybody. We focus on the user. And the user wants the ability to go across numerous properties on the web without being under surveillance. We're moving privacy protections forward. And I actually think it's a very reasonable request for people to make.
O'DONNELL: Do you think Facebook cares about our private security?
COOK: I think that everybody's beginning to care more. People are becoming more aware of what's been happening. Many people are getting more offended. I think this is good. Because we need to shine a light on it. You can imagine an environment where everyone begins to think there's no privacy. And if there's no privacy, your freedom of expression just plummets. Because now you're going to be thinking about that everybody's gonna know every single thing you're doing. This is not good for our country, not good for democracy.
O'DONNELL: I know you had urged Congress to try and pass some legislation to deal with this issue. Congress hasn't acted, right?
COOK: They haven't. I'm hoping that they do. We're actively pushing and giving suggestions and so forth. We're gonna continue to do that. I think the country needs to move forward here, and I think it needs to be some pretty bright lines.
O'DONNELL: But don't I, as an American and a user of this data, have a right to know how my data is being used or sold?
COOK: Yes, you do. You have a right to do that. And you have the right to stop it, in my mind, and you have a right to change it; a right to delete it.
O'DONNELL: But do I have the ability to do that?
COOK: No, you don't today. I mean, there's so many companies out there that have your data, that you've never even heard of.
O'DONNELL: So, if the government is not acting, what's Apple doing to fix that problem?
COOK: Well, we're not waiting for the government to act. We're pushing forward and I hope that everyone that wants to not be surveilled across the internet, I hope they use our sign-on.
O'DONNELL: Want to ask you about iTunes. It--
O'DONNELL: Was launched 18 years ago--
COOK: Yeah, it's been a while.
O'DONNELL: Eighteen years ago. Is it bittersweet, sorta shutting it down?
COOK: Well, we're not really shutting it down. Most people associate iTunes with the ability to purchase music at the song level. And we're still doing that. What we're doing is we've recognized that there've been so many things put into iTunes, from audio or from music to podcasts to video and all the rest, that we need to separate these things out so it's clear where you go for what.
O'DONNELL: I want to ask you about screen time.
O'DONNELL: Do you know how much screen time you use every day?
COOK: I do, because I get a report every week. You're probably getting this, too. And it tells me how many hours per day and what they are made of, you know; where I'm spending my time. And I've found it to be pretty profound. One, I was spending more time than I thought. And even more the case, I was getting more notifications and picking up my phone more than I should. And so, I've dialed back a whole bunch of notifications and stopped myself from being too antsy about picking up the phone.
O'DONNELL: Uh-huh. So, the CEO of Apple is saying don't pick up your phone as much?
COOK: I'm saying we made the phone not so that you'll use it all the time. We made the phone to make your life better. And everybody has to decide for his or herself what that means. But for me, my simple rule is if I'm looking at the device more than I'm looking into someone's eyes, I'm doing the wrong thing.
O'DONNELL: But I know you've seen it, too, Tim. You can go into a restaurant and you can see a couple, maybe even on a first or second date, and they're both just staring at their phones.
O'DONNELL: What's it doing to us?
COOK: What is it doing to us? I think everybody has to make their own decision about how they date and so forth. I'm the last person to go into advise that.
O'DONNELL: But you know what I'm saying.
COOK: I'm certainly not an expert on it, myself. But I think what we wanted to do was to give people the tools so they have a true north. You know, like, for me -- and I think many others -- were kind of surprised by how much they were using it and picking it up and notifications. I hope everyone dials back, if they want to, right.
O'DONNELL: Uh-huh. I mean, the iPhone is arguably the most successful consumer product ever created in mankind. And yet, parents and people are struggling with really how to use it. Is it shortening our attention span? Changing the way we interact?
COOK: I haven't seen evidence of that. But users have told us started telling us, hey, my kids are using it too much. But we also learned something else, was that parents are also spending too much time. And so, the screen time is really focused on both kids and parents because all of us, if we know what we're doing, we can make changes that we want to make.
O'DONNELL: Let me ask you about some other news today. The government is looking into big tech. Essentially, whether companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple are too big. Is Apple too big?
COOK: No. I don't thinks so. I think that with size, I think scrutiny is fair. I think we should be scrutinized. But if you look at any kind of measure about is Apple a monopoly or not, I don't think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple's a monopoly. Our share is much more modest. We don't have a dominant position in any market.
O'DONNELL: You're saying you're not a monopoly.
COOK: We are not a monopoly.
O'DONNELL: But Elizabeth Warren, who's campaigning for president says, "Apple should break up its App Store and other parts of its business."
COOK: Well, I strongly disagree with that. I think some people would argue, if you are selling a good, then you can't have a product that competes with that good. And I think that's part of what is being argued there. But that's an argument that takes you down the path that, Walmart shouldn't be stocking alternative or house brand. And so this is decades of U.S. law here. But I think scrutiny is good, and we'll tell our story to anybody that we need to or wants to hear it. I feel very confident in our position. You know, we're on the user's side. We're on the user's side in privacy. We're on the user's side in trying to prevent fake news. And so we curate, and we've always done that. We're not an amplifier for fake news or pitting groups against one another or having porn or all this other kind of stuff. This is not what we're about, and we've never been about that.
O'DONNELL: Is Facebook an amplifier for fake news?
COOK: I think that any kind of property, if you will, that pushes news and in a way that is not curated. I don't really believe personally that A.I. has the power today to differentiate between what is fake and what is not. And so I worry about any property that today pushes news in a feed. And so what we do with our news product, we're not creating news, but we do pick top stories, we have people doing it. And so I do worry about people thinking like machines. Not machines thinking like people.
O'DONNELL: Do you worry about what may happen in the next presidential election?
COOK: Well, the answer is I worry that the fake news is not under control. And I do worry about outside forces using it to manipulate people's thoughts and so forth. So yes, I think we should all be concerned. I think all of us should be.
O'DONNELL: How hard is Apple getting hit by President Trump's trade war with China?
COOK: Well, it currently the Chinese have not targeted Apple at all. And I don't anticipate that happening, to be honest.
O'DONNELL: But it's been reported, if there's a 25% tariff on the iPhone XS alone, it could add $160 to what is already, you know, a very expensive device. Would that hurt sales?
COOK: Sure it would. I'm hoping that doesn't happen. And I don't anticipate it happening. I know people think the iPhone is made in China. The iPhone is assembled in China. The truth is, the iPhone is made everywhere. It's made everywhere. And so a tariff on the iPhone would hurt all of those countries, but the one that would be hurt the most is this one.
O'DONNELL: President Trump calls you a friend. How would you describe your relationship?
COOK: I think we've had very straightforward discussions, many of them. He listens to the comments, which I appreciate. Sometimes he doesn't agree. But my philosophy on things is that, you always engage, even when you know that you're gonna wind up on very opposite sides. Because the only way that you change somebody's mind is if you talk. Now that said, you know, I have a very different view on DACA and other immigration issues. On climate change and a set of others. But this doesn't prevent me from weighing in on other things that there might be commonality on.
O'DONNELL: Because you know there are many other CEOs and there are many tech leaders who say, they won't even meet with President Trump. But you engage with the White House regularly.
COOK: I do. And I'm proud to. I mean, because I don't believe in the "I disagree with you, and so I don't want to have anything to do with you."
O'DONNELL: President Trump and the administration have banned Huawei. Are you concerned that your Chinese rival could ultimately retaliate against Apple because of that?
COOK: I think again, I think we've had a company in China for a long time. And so, there is a, I believe, a healthy level of respect for both sides. And so I don't anticipate that happening. But I'm not promising that it will not, but I don't anticipate it.
O'DONNELL: I know is an issue you care deeply about. And it affects hundreds of your employees. You've spoken directly with the White House about this. I know you joined 100 CEOs in urging Congress to try and pass immigration reform, and yet nothing has been done on this.
COOK: Yeah, I'm very disappointed in this. I think I'm worried that we're all losing the humanity of this, and getting lost in numbers and politics, et cetera. I see this simply. These folks that we have in Apple, and I believe they're largely representative of the total Dreamer population. We have 300-plus. They are every bit of as a U.S. citizen as I am. And I just can't conceive why anyone would spend 30 seconds in thinking they're not. I mean, these are kids that came in at 6 months old and 1 year old and 2 years old. They didn't make a decision to climb a wall. This is not about numbers. This is not about politics. This is about humanity.
O'DONNELL: But it is a rallying cry for the president. Build a wall. He's running a reelection campaign on that. He's raising money doing it, and it's a daily message for him.
COOK: Yeah, I think that immigration is a very complex issue as a whole, and so what I'm talking about is the DACA element of it to me is extremely straightforward. And I will be talking about this until my toes point up, if it takes that long. Because I think-- and honestly, Norah, I believe -- I'd invite anybody out to Apple who wants to come meet some. Because these folks are just incredible Americans. They deserve the title. They deserve to be in this country. It would be a travesty if something else happened. And so to me, that is clear and simple.
O'DONNELL: Well, Tim Cook, thank you for joining us.
COOK: Thank you for having me. It is--
O'DONNELL: No, thank you.
COOK: A joy to talk with you.
O'DONNELL: Thank you.
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