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Tim Cook Talks Privacy, China, and Banning Alex Jones in Vice News Interview

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Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday said the company is devoted to protecting people’s privacy, with data encrypted and locked away on servers even in China.

Cook was recently interviewed during an episode of Vice News Tonight that aired Tuesday on HBO where he discussed a wide range of topics including Apple’s commitment to privacy, its relationship with China, and how they treat the likes of Alex Jones and other Alt Right hate speech figures on their platforms.

Cook said that it’s time for the government to regulate privacy, even though regulation will be shaped by a Congress that’s not particularly tech-savvy.

“I see privacy as one of the most important issues of the 21st century,” Cook said. “I’m not a pro-regulation kind of person, I believe in the free market deeply [but] when the free market doesn’t produce a result that’s great for society, you have to ask yourself: What do we need to do? And I think some level of government regulation is important to come out of that.”

Earlier this year, Apple faced criticism when it moved the iCloud data of Chinese customers to government-owned servers in order to comply with restrictive new laws in the country. Many politicians and analysts have since been critical of the move, claiming that tech companies have been tweaking their morals in order to do business in the country.

Tim Cook defended the security of the move, saying that “It’s not easy for anybody to get it. I mean it’s encrypted like it is everywhere. And so no, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t get caught up in the, ‘Where’s the location of it?’ I mean, we have servers located in many different countries in the world. They are not easier to get data from being in one country versus the next.”

“If you lock your phone in China, I can’t open it,” Cook continued. “The thing about China that people have confused is that certain countries, China being one, have a requirement that data from local citizens has to be kept in China. We worked with a Chinese company to provide iCloud. But the keys are ours.”

Cook’s interview also touched on Apple’s decision in August to remove content from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform. The move by Apple was followed in quick succession by the likes of Facebook and Alphabet’s YouTube, though Cook said there was no coordination on the issue.

“We make out decisions independently,” he told Vice.

“We don’t take a political stand,” said Cook. “We’re not leaning one way or the other.” Across Apple’s various platforms, Cook said that users “see everything from very conservative to very liberal.” And, he said, “that’s the way I think it should be.”

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