Tim Cook talks immigration, human rights, privacy, Apple news, and more

Last night, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook sat down to talk to Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky to discuss a range of subjects including education, privacy, human rights, immigration, and to explain why Apple continues to have such a strong stance on these topics.

In the interview, Cook said that Apple has always been about “changing the world” but this is not something that can happen “when you stay quiet.”

We’ve always been about changing the world and it became clear to me some number of years ago that you don’t do that by staying quiet on things that matter. For us, that’s been the driving issue. There’s no formula for when you speak and when you don’t. The way I think about it… is it something Apple has a special expertise on? I don’t want Apple to be another talking head. We should only speak when we have specific knowledge to bring to the subject.

Do we have standing? Do we have a right to talk about this issue? It’s not enough to be a large company to speak. I think about that, and so what that means for us is that we typically speak about education, privacy, human rights, immigration, and the environment because there’s something we have where we can bring a point of view — it may be discounted and most people may view it to be incorrect — but nevertheless it is a point of view we can share.

He then went on to say that he doesn’t think businesses should deal only in commercial things and that companies should have values and not be afraid to stand up for them. Companies should speak out after evaluating whether or not a subject is a core value, he explained.

Ask yourself — is it a core value of your company? […] If something happens that isn’t consistent with those, then I think you need to speak. Think about if you don’t — then you’re in the appalling silence of good people category and this is something I’ve never wanted to be a part of.

One of the reasons Apple has spoken out about immigration is because Apple employs many immigrants. There are over 300 immigrant employees at DACA and several thousand that are on H1B visas who may be in “the deep green card back log.” Cook says that this gives Apple a unique perspective to share on the subject.

He also believes that the company has its own perspective to offer on diversity, which is also tied to the company’s views on human rights. Cook hasn’t shied away from expressing his views on the recent U.S. immigration policy that saw children separated from their parents, something which he called “inhumane”.

Apple is quick to speak out on policies surrounding immigration, diversity, human rights, and similar topics but Cook clarified that the company “does not get into politics.”

We just stick to the policy. If you do that, most people will respect that. Even when people disagree, they will respect that that’s what you’re doing.

When the conversation came round to privacy, Cook said that Apple’s views on privacy stemmed from its values and then a business model was created to live up to said values.

We felt strongly about privacy when no one cared. We could not see the specific details, but we could see that the building of the detailed profile of people likely would result in significant harm over time. That it could be used for too many nefarious things. We think that people in today’s environment don’t have a full view of who has what and how much of their lives has been opened to commercial entities and public entities.

He also discussed Apple’s newly announced decision to add a curated Midterm Election section to the Apple news app, explaining that he wants to make sure people are reading content that’s not created “strictly with the goal of enraging people.” The company will source news from conservative outlets, liberal outlets, and “in between if there is such a thing anymore.” Essentially, there will be no specific political agenda.

There was also some discussion about Apple’s new Screen Time feature in iOS 12. For Cook, Screen Time has caused him to cut down on iPhone usage.

The final topic of discussion was on long vs short term investments. Cook said that Apple often makes investments that are 7 to 10 years out and that if he were “king for a day”, 90 day earnings reports “would be flushed” because they’re a “remnant of a different day and time.”

With his seventh anniversary approaching, Lashinsky asked Cook how long he planned to hold his position as CEO. “It is the privilege of a lifetime to be at Apple and to lead the company and hopefully I’ve got some good time left,” answered Cook.

We’re hoping that Fortune makes the full interview available at a later date.


About the Author

Helen is a Digital Copywriter at Precise English, a copywriting and marketing agency based in the UK.