Apple’s C.E.O. Is Making Very Different Choices From Mark Zuckerberg (Transcript)
Tim Cook views privacy as ‘one of the top issues of the 21st century.’ Other tech leaders don’t seem to agree.
Monday, April 5th, 2021 Archived Recording (SINGING) When you walk in the room, do you have sway?
Kara Swisher I’m Kara Swisher, and you’re listening to “Sway.” My guest today is Apple CEO Tim Cook. He’s been at Apple for 23 years and at the helm of the company for almost 10, having inherited the reins from the late Steve Jobs. When Cook got the top job, Apple’s market cap was close to $350 billion. Today, it’s worth over $2 trillion. It churns out billions of devices that are hugely popular worldwide, but the company is also now in the crosshairs of antitrust investigators due to its massive size and power. Epic Games is suing Apple, for example, alleging the company is a monopoly. And other developers are also complaining to regulators. Meanwhile, some users of the so-called free speech network Parler have also taken issue with Apple for removing Parler from its App Store. It was a move made by Apple and by Google and Amazon after the Capitol attacks. They maintain that Parler failed to moderate dangerous content related to the attempted insurrection on January 6. Cook has also become a hero to some, doubling down in an impassioned speech and a major privacy conference recently, calling out the tech industry, especially social media companies, over misuse of consumer data.
Archived Recording (Tim Cook) If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform. We should not look away from the bigger picture. At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement.
Kara Swisher Tim Cook, welcome to “Sway.” That was quite a speech. I was surprised by how strongly you put it. You were talking about social media companies there and those that use data. You took Parler off. How did you think about that decision?
Tim Cook Well, in some ways, it was a straightforward decision, because they were not adhering to the guidelines of the App Store. You can’t be inciting violence or allow people to incite violence. You can’t allow hate speech and so forth. And they had moved from moderating to not being able to moderate. But we gave them a chance to cure that. And they were unable to do that or didn’t do that. And so we had to pull them off. Now, having said that, Kara, I hope that they come back on. Because we work hard to get people on the store, not to keep people off the store. And so, I’m hoping that they put in the moderation that’s required to be on the store and come back, because I think having more social networks out there is better than having less.
Kara Swisher The day of the attack, I was actually interviewing the C.E.O of Parler. It was quite an astonishing interview. Did you listen to what he said? He said, I don’t have responsibility. I don’t take any responsibility.
Tim Cook And obviously, that doesn’t adhere to the App Store terms and conditions.
Kara Swisher Yeah, you had been working with them previously on these issues, too.
Tim Cook We believe that at a point in time, they were compliant.
Kara Swisher And then they were not.
Tim Cook And then they were not.
Kara Swisher Yeah, and lots of tech companies acted at the same time, whether it was Amazon, Google, you, and others. It was sort of like a house of cards sort of fell in on them. Should it have been done before?
Tim Cook It happened as soon as we became aware of it. And I’m not sure it would have taken the Capitol event for that to occur. We would have taken it off when we became aware. After giving some time to cure, we would have taken it off. And again, I can’t stress enough, I hope they come back.
Kara Swisher Yeah, I want to talk about the hearings on Capitol Hill last month. You weren’t there, but the CEOs of three tech companies were — Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, and Sundar Pichai from Google and Alphabet. Congressman Mike Doyle asked all three tech executives to answer yes or no to the same question, which was a little reductive. I would have asked it slightly differently. But he wanted to know whether their companies bore any responsibility for spreading misinformation and planning the attack on the Capitol. They didn’t answer. They sort of tried to walk around it. Jack Dorsey kind of answered — said yes, but, essentially. How would you have answered for those companies or for Apple, or technology in general?
Tim Cook Well, I can only speak for Apple. And from the very start, we’ve always believed in curation. And so we review every app that goes on the store. That doesn’t mean that we’re perfect at doing it. We’re not. But we care deeply about what we’re offering our users. And when we have a news product like Apple News, we have human editors that are selecting the key stories. And so, they’re avoiding all of the misinformation that is out there. The reality is that the web in some areas has become a dark place. And without curation, you wind up with this firehose of things that I would not want to put into an amplifier.
Kara Swisher Right.
Tim Cook Which is what tech is, in a large way. If you have a platform, you amplify things.
Kara Swisher Do you consider Apple an amplifier?
Tim Cook Well, I think in areas like the selection of stories on Apple News, we have human editors do that. Even though the App Store isn’t a push, so we’re not pushing things in your feed like a social media company would be, a lot of people are coming to the App Store. And so we want that to be a safe and trusted place to be.
Kara Swisher What is the broader culpability of Big Tech in the context of things like the attack? Because you did actually address it in your speech on privacy. A lot of people give some culpability to social media sites. And Apple does not have one. Ping never sort of took off. I remember Ping was the social network Apple had that —
Tim Cook Yeah, I do remember. I’m glad you reminded me.
Kara Swisher Yeah, I remember Steve. He says, what do you think of Ping? It sucks. And he’s like, yes, yeah, it does. It really does. But do you think social media sites were culpable in the attack?
Tim Cook I think that the amplification of social media is something that I deeply worry about. And the targeting tools, the same tools that are used to target in advertising can be used to target for misinformation purposes or extremist purposes. And so I deeply worry about that. The people I fault the most for the Capitol attack are the people that obviously were in the attack itself, that breached the Capitol. But I think it’s incumbent on all of us to take a step back and ask, what were the other contributing factors? Because we don’t want to repeat it. This was one of the darkest days in our history. And it played out in front of all of us. I felt like it was more of a movie or something, that it was something that was not real, that it couldn’t be happening in the United States of America. And so I’m hopeful that that deep inspection occurs.
Kara Swisher So one of the things this calls for amending Section 230, which is, of course, the part of the Communications Decency Act that protects platforms from getting sued because of content of the user’s post. Do you think liability is important?
Tim Cook I’m not big on suing as a lever. I think 230, it was written at a time prior to lots of things that have come into existence. And they weren’t envisioned. And so, I think it’s time to revisit 230. But I don’t have an answer of what the perfect way to revise 230 would be.
Kara Swisher So let’s talk about the solutions. I want to get into privacy, which Apple has been pushing rather hard as well. How do you look at data and privacy bills that are being contemplated?
Tim Cook Generally speaking, I think privacy is one of the top issues of the 21st century. And I think we’re in a crisis.
Kara Swisher OK.
Tim Cook Years ago, I thought companies would regulate themselves and sort of get better. I no longer believe that. And I’m not generally somebody that is keen on regulation, but I think that regulation is required.
Kara Swisher What made you not believe it? What tipped you over?
Tim Cook Because I saw companies continually going outside of what I thought were reasonable rails.
Kara Swisher Mm-hmm. One of the things you said in that speech, if we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated and sold, we lose so much more than data. We lose freedom to be human. Talk about what you meant by that.
Tim Cook If you think about a surveillance world, a world where you know somebody is always watching everything you’re doing — and in the case of a phone or a computer, it’s also what you’re thinking, because you’re typing in searches and so on and so forth. And so I think in that kind of world, you begin to do less. You begin to think less. Your freedom of expression begins to narrow. And the walls move in on you. And I start thinking about that at its natural endpoint. And I don’t want to be a part of that society.
Kara Swisher And why is it important for Apple to speak up on this? You sell the phones that allow these apps to do those things. You’ve used it as a brand attribute in advertising, very strong advertising standing up for privacy. Why are you speaking out so strongly about it?
Tim Cook It’s not about being a brand attribute, to be frank. For us, privacy is a basic human right. And it’s a right that other rights are built off of. It’s that kind of core. It’s bedrock. And it’s not something that I just decided a few years ago. As I remember, Steve commented on this with you over a decade ago. He said something like, privacy means people know what they’re signing up for in plain English, repeatedly. The individual should own their data. And they should own the ability to say who gets it and what of their data they get and what they use it for. And frankly, that’s not the situation of today.
Kara Swisher Are you surprised by the amount of data thievery, essentially, that goes on?
Tim Cook I’m appalled by it. And so we’ve got things coming out like a privacy nutrition label. Privacy policies have become these multi-page things that people just blindly say, I agree, so that they can go to the next screen and move on. A privacy nutrition label, much like a nutrition label on food, gives you at a glance some key information. We’ll improve that over time. And then the one, Kara, that’s probably gotten the most attention is called ATT.
Kara Swisher Yes, we’re going to get into that.
Tim Cook App Tracking Transparency, and what it tries to get at is companies that are taking advantage of tracking you across apps of other companies, and therefore putting together an entire profile of what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, surveilling you across the web 24/7.
Kara Swisher Right, using devices you make as the vehicle to do so.
Tim Cook They are using all technology for these, whether —
Kara Swisher Yeah, right. I’m just saying in your case. So let’s make it easy for people to understand. When exactly is the new update coming out?
Tim Cook It’s just a few weeks now.
Kara Swisher All right, and it’s called ATT, which is App Tracking Transparency.
Tim Cook That’s right.
Kara Swisher Obviously, companies like Facebook and many others make a lot of money from data collected from those trackers. How will the consumers see it? What is going to happen?
Tim Cook They’ll see a simple pop-up that basically prompts them to answer the question of, are they OK with being tracked or not? If they are, things move on. If they’re not, then the tracking is turned off for that individual with respect to that specific app.
Kara Swisher Right, and will it tell them what’s tracking to let them make a decision? Because just saying, do you want to be tracked, most people are like, stopped? No, no thank you.
Tim Cook The developer can put essentially other information in there. Maybe they say that it’s for better ads or better targeted ads or whatever. All we want to do is supply a tool so that the person that should make the decision can make it.
Kara Swisher You’re guiding them there, though. You are guiding them to doing this. Why did you decide to do this now?
Tim Cook Kara, every year, we add privacy features. If you look back in time, we’ve added some every year. It is not aimed at a company. It’s aimed at a principle. And the principle is that the individual should be in control over whether they’re tracked or not, who has their data. It’s that simple. And if you were designing such a system from scratch today, of course you would do this. Of course, it should be your decision of what happens to your data, not mine or somebody else. And people that argue against that choice is essentially saying that they didn’t have informed consent before. And I think that’s a powerful point in and of itself.
Kara Swisher Right, but Facebook, the company’s privacy stance, Facebook said, was meant to benefit your own bottom line. And you’re in this fight with Facebook. And what is your response to Facebook’s response, which is quite vehement, calling you, essentially, an existential crisis to their business?
Tim Cook All we’re doing, Kara, is giving the user the choice whether to be tracked or not. And I think it’s hard to argue against that. I’ve been shocked that there’s been a pushback on this to —
Kara Swisher Really?
Tim Cook — this degree. To this degree. Because I mean, how do you argue against that? It’s sort of like —
Kara Swisher They have a lot of them. You’re hurting small businesses. That it’s part of your bottom line.
Tim Cook But we know these things are flimsy arguments.
Kara Swisher So you say you’re surprised by this pushback. I’m surprised you’re surprised, I guess. You’re aiming at the heart of those businesses.
Tim Cook First of all, I don’t really agree with that — with that assertion. I think that you can do digital advertising and make money from digital advertising without tracking people when they don’t know they’re being tracked. And I think time will prove that out. I’ve heard this about other things we’ve done in the past that it’s almost existential and it wasn’t. I don’t buy that.
Kara Swisher What will be the result of the impact on Facebook’s business, do you think? I’m going to use Facebook because they’re the biggest, and they’re the ones that collect the most data. But Google also does, and many others do.
Tim Cook Yeah, Kara, I’m not focused on Facebook, so I don’t know. I’m just saying —
Kara Swisher But they called you their “competitor,” so you don’t see it this way? You don’t view them as a competitor to Apple?
Tim Cook Oh, I think that we compete in some things. But no, if I may ask who our biggest competitor are, they would not be listed. We’re not in the social networking business.
Kara Swisher Mm-hmm. All right, let me ask you one more Facebook — I’m sorry to bug you about this. But we spoke three years ago on stage in Chicago. It was after Cambridge Analytica news broke when I asked you to imagine yourself in Zuckerberg’s shoes in his situation. I want you to hear this clip. And here’s what you said.
Archived Recording (Tim Cook) We’ve always felt really responsible for —
Archived Recording (Kara Swisher) Mark Zuckerberg — what would you do?
Archived Recording (Tim Cook) What would I do? I wouldn’t be in this situation.
Archived Recording (Kara Swisher) OK. [LAUGHTER]
Kara Swisher People seemed to like that answer. Do you feel that way now?
Tim Cook You know I can only talk about the choices that Apple has made.
Kara Swisher Mm-hmm. And this is a good choice, this transparency tracker.
Tim Cook I feel very emphatically that it is. That data minimization, getting as little as you need, making sure you need what you’re getting, challenging yourself to get less and less and less and less, and then security is the underpinning for privacy, right? And encryption and there’s a whole bunch of things we could talk about there by itself.
Kara Swisher Well, let me ask that. Several years ago, you were in a fight over encryption. This is after the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack. The FBI asked Apple to build a backdoor to unlock the attacker’s phone. You opposed the order, citing the danger to privacy.
Tim Cook Yes, we cited the danger to hundreds of millions of customers because you can’t build a singular backdoor. The backdoor that they were asking for was in the operating system and would affect everybody that owns an iPhone.
Kara Swisher And then the Justice Department ended up unlocking the iPhone without Apple’s help.
Tim Cook Yep.
Kara Swisher Where do you stand now on that?
Tim Cook I think it was the right fight. I think encryption is still under fire today. There’s still people that believe that the government should have a — should either have a key or have access to a key or have a door or access to a door. And our point of view hasn’t changed on that. It’s that once you have a back door, you have a back door for everybody. There’s not a way in technology today to have a back door just for the good guys.
Kara Swisher All right, you’re being sued right now by Epic Games, which makes the wildly popular game “Fortnite.” Back in August, Epic tried to circumvent Apple’s App Store. Basically, they wanted to avoid Apple taking a 30% cut of the in-app purchase. So they introduced their own direct payment system. You kicked “Fortnite” off the store for breaking the rules. You may not be able to talk specifically, but what was the principle at stake here?
Tim Cook It’s about living up to the rules and the guidelines of the App Store. And they had done that for years and then had decided evidently that they didn’t want to follow the rules anymore, and had passed something through app review and then after it had been through app review, changed it on the server side. So it was sort of a deceitful move. And so we’re going into court. We’re coming to tell our story. We’re going to talk about the privacy and security aspects of the store. And we’re confident in our case.
Kara Swisher This trial is set for I think May 3, coming up.
Tim Cook Yeah, it’s coming in a month.
Kara Swisher So when you look at this case, one of the things is, it could be bad rules. This is what they’re trying to argue, I think, on Epic’s side, whether these rules where you take a certain cut and then, for example, Apple takes only 15% cut of Amazon’s App Store revenue for Prime Video, for example. Is there a reckoning for you all to think about changing these rules more significantly?
Tim Cook Well, the App Store is not cast in concrete, you know? And so we’ve changed over time. And in fact, if you look at the commissions, Kara, and I would sort of reframe a bit from what you said, because the vast majority of people pay nothing. Because there’s not an interchange of a digital good, right? And so, like, 85% of people pay zero commission. And then with our recent move with small developers, developers earning less than a million dollars a year pay 15%. Well, it turns out that that’s the vast majority of developers. And then, we also have rules that say that if you have a subscription model in the second year and later years, you only pay 15% of those. And so we’ve only reduced the price over time. It’s only gone in one direction. It’s gone down. More apps were exempted. But those rules are applied equally to everyone. So you’ve mentioned Amazon getting 15%. That’s true for any kind of video streaming service that meets the guidelines of that program.
Kara Swisher So it depends on what they’re doing — what they’re necessary —
Tim Cook It depends on what they’re doing. Right.
Kara Swisher Like Netflix and others, right. What’s wrong with Epic or any developer going their own way or allowing a direct payment system, instead of having to go through the App Store? Why should you have the control?
Tim Cook Well, I think somebody has to. I think somebody has to curate, right? Because users aren’t going to come there and buy things if they don’t have trust and confidence in the store. And we think our users want that.
Kara Swisher Why can’t there be more stores, other stores run by others?
Tim Cook Because if you had side loading, you would break the privacy and security model.
Kara Swisher On the phone itself, and the phone itself wouldn’t protect the user necessarily.
Tim Cook Well, you’d be opening up a huge vector on another store.
Kara Swisher Do you find this to be your most vulnerable part of your business, these issues with antitrust investigators looking into it?
Tim Cook Apple has helped build a economy that’s over a half a trillion dollars a year, half a trillion, and takes a very small sliver of that for the innovation that it unleashed and the expense of running the store. I think it’s hard to argue that the App Store is not an economic miracle. I mean, you just look at it. There’s been over a million people in the U.S now have their livelihoods associated with the App Store. And they are not only selling in the United States, but they’re selling abroad. And this is one of the fastest growing job segments.
Kara Swisher . But yet, you feel you have to have complete control over this economic miracle, or you can’t envision not having control of it?
Tim Cook I think curation is important as a part of the App Store. In any given week, 100,000 applications come into the app review. 40,000 of them are rejected. Most of them are rejected because they don’t work or don’t work like they say that they work. You can imagine if curation went away, what would occur to the App Store in a very short amount of time.
Kara Swisher We’ll be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. You’ll be able to catch up on “Sway” episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with former Parler CEO John Matze. And you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Tim Cook after the break.
You’ve acquired a lot of companies since 2015, but not big ones. Apple has still maintained it’s not in the big acquisition game. I think the last big acquisition was Beats Music and Beats Electronics in 2014 for $3 billion, which was a long time ago. Talk a little about where you think innovation is going for Apple itself.
Tim Cook Obviously, I have a rule against talking about things in the future. But I’m very excited about AR. I’m very excited about AI.
Kara Swisher What is your big interest in augmented reality? I remember we had lunch once, and again, you talked about football and augmented reality. That was all you talked about. So what was that? And I’m more interested in, as I told you, in augmented reality. What is the interest in it? Because Apple is holding its next Worldwide Developers Conference in June with the tagline “Glow and Behold.” I don’t know what that means. It’s rumored that Apple is expected to announce the first major new device since 2015, a mixed-reality headset. Can you talk about AR and this mixed-reality headset?
Tim Cook Well, I can’t talk about anything that may or may not be in the pipeline. But in terms of AR, the promise of AR is that you and I are having a great conversation right now. Arguably, it could even be better if we were able to augment our discussion with charts or other things to appear. And your audience would also benefit from this, too, I think. And so when I think about that in different fields, whether it’s health, whether it’s education, whether it’s gaming, whether it’s retail, I’m already seeing AR take off in some of these areas with use of the phone. And I think the promise is even greater in the future.
Kara Swisher So it’s a critically important part of Apple’s future.
Tim Cook It is.
Kara Swisher What about content? You’re in content. Why do you think you need to be in there competing against a Netflix? It seems like it’s a comma for you, like hardly any investment.
Tim Cook Oh, no, not at all. Not at all. We’re making serious investments in Apple TV Plus. I assume you’re talking about video content.
Kara Swisher Yeah, mm-hmm.
Tim Cook For the same reason that we’re in products, we’re about making the best, not the most. And so in the TV Plus area, we’re about originals only on Apple. And so I don’t know if you’re watching, what you’re watching at all, but —
Kara Swisher “The Morning Show,” just on yours. That’s all.
Tim Cook You’re watching “The Morning Show.” I hope you love it. “Ted Lasso” — I don’t know if you’ve watched Ted Lasso.
Kara Swisher I have.
Tim Cook But there was no better show during COVID. I’m getting notes from a lot of different people that love it.
Kara Swisher Right, how do you compete, though, against a Netflix? And you’ve got all these streamers, while HBO Max is making all this content. You have money. That’s what you have the most of, I think, compared to all of them.
Tim Cook Well, hopefully, we have good ideas. But Kara, I don’t see it as a zero sum game. I don’t see that if a given user buys Netflix, that they can’t also buy Apple.
Kara Swisher And you think content is critical as an area of focus for Apple.
Tim Cook Yes, and we’re putting all of ourselves into it. It is not a hobby. It is not a dip your toe in. Because it’s an original focus, we don’t instantly have a catalog with 500 things in it. We’re going to build over time. We’ve gotten over 300 nominations now for awards and have won 80.
Kara Swisher Yeah, you don’t strike me as a Hollywood guy, Tim. I don’t know.
Tim Cook I’m not a Hollywood guy.
Kara Swisher Yeah, I don’t see you, like, swanning around Hollywood.
Tim Cook I’m not a Hollywood guy. But Kara, I love great content.
Kara Swisher Mm-hmm. Last question on innovation, self-driving cars. One of the companies you acquired is Drive AI, a self-driving startup. Apple is testing autonomous vehicles. It was, reportedly. Last year, Elon Musk said he offered to sell Tesla to Apple for 1/10 its value. And he said you wouldn’t even take a meeting with him.
Tim Cook You know, I’ve never spoken to Elon, although I have great admiration and respect for the company he’s built. I think Tesla has done an unbelievable job of not only establishing the lead, but keeping the lead for such a long period of time in the EV space. So I have great appreciation for them. In terms of the work that we’re doing there, obviously, I’m going to be a little coy on that. The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view. If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does. We investigate so many things internally. Many of them never see the light of day. I’m not saying that one will not.
Kara Swisher Would it be in the form of a car or the technology within a car?
Tim Cook Yeah, I’m not going to answer that question.
Kara Swisher I think it has to be a car. You can’t just do the tech — you’re not going to let — you’re not Google.
Tim Cook We love to integrate hardware, software, and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs. And so that’s what we love to do. And we love to own the primary technology that’s around that.
Kara Swisher I’m going to go with car for that, if you don’t mind. I’m going to just jump to car. I wish you would make a car. I actually have been looking at electric cars and autonomous cars. Anyway, one of the things I want to finish up is you yourself in your sort of evolution, but politically, too, you were talking about voting rights, about the issues in Georgia. You did engage with Trump a lot. I didn’t call you “Tim Apple” once. Do you miss that, by the way?
Tim Cook Being called “Tim Apple“?
Kara Swisher Yeah.
Tim Cook I changed my Twitter handle to “Tim Apple” for a while. So I leaned into it.
Kara Swisher You leaned into it. And you just didn’t correct him. You just thought, why not? Why not just let him do it? How do you look at working with the Biden administration versus the Trump administration? Because you’ve become more political, I think.
Tim Cook I don’t feel political. I feel that we focus on policies. And we believe strongly in an engagement. So whoever is in the White House, we’re going to seek to engage. And we’re going to seek to find areas of commonality where we can help the administration. And there will be areas that I’m sure that we are on different sides of an issue as well. But our focus is not on the politics of it. It’s on the policy. And so that’s what we did during President Trump’s administration. That’s what we’ll do during President Biden’s administration.
Kara Swisher Talk about voting rights and what you said.
Tim Cook Yeah, well, voting rights, I think voting rights are fundamental to democracy. You know, I think about my old friend, John Lewis. And sort of what John did to advance voting rights and the hard-fought wins there, we can’t let those go in reverse. And I think, just from a stepping back from it, I think we’re probably all having the wrong conversation on voting rights. We should be talking about using technology. How can we make it so simple that our voting participation gets to 100? Or it gets really close to 100. Maybe we get in the 90s or something. It’s pretty arcane.
Kara Swisher Certainly, but when you introduce technology into voting when it’s already fraught with accusations of fraud, it’s sort of a really troublesome stew, politically speaking.
Tim Cook I’m not sure. It may answer some of the issues. It may be something that is so different than the current —
Kara Swisher So voting on phones? Is that what you’re talking about?
Tim Cook You know, I would dream of that, because I think that’s where we live. We do our banking on phones. We have our health data on phones. We have more information on a phone about us than is in our houses. And so why not?
Kara Swisher Well, it’s been a little politicized at this point. I mean, it’s interesting you’re saying policy versus politics, but you’re in the middle of politics right now. Are there any negatives to moving into the political space from your perspective as a modern CEO?
Tim Cook It’s not something I want to do. The way that I look at it is, we want to advance some of our policies. We want to advance immigration. We want to advance on working on climate change. We want to advance job creation. We want to advance retraining because we see the need to retrain over a lifetime. And we want to find the administrations or representatives that believe in those things and work with them on those. It’s not really working against somebody. It’s working for those causes.
Kara Swisher Is there a cost to a CEO inserting themselves in?
Tim Cook Inserting themselves in policy? Oh, every time I say something, somebody will reach out to me and not be very happy.
Kara Swisher Right, or not — or be very happy.
Tim Cook Yeah.
Kara Swisher You decided to come out in 2014 in a Bloomberg piece. I can’t believe you didn’t come to Kara Swisher, but that’s OK. That’s all right. I’m forgiving you. And you’re the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Do you feel the need to be an even louder voice now or a more prominent leader in this area? You just teamed up with non-profit Encircle to donate a million dollars. You’re serving as honorary co-chair.
Tim Cook The way that I looked at this was I wanted to speak my truth because I saw kids struggling with who they were and maybe being disowned by their families, maybe being bullied — a set of horribles, if you will. And I felt that coming out and speaking my truth would help show them that there was a light at the end of the tunnel; that they could rise and do things incredible in life, that they were not capped in some kind of way because they were part of the LGBTQ community. And I feel like — well, I know because I’ve gotten so many different notes and people reaching out to me over time — that I accomplished that for a number of people. And I feel really good about that. I don’t feel like that’s all I need to do. I think to whom much is given, much is required. And so I’m going to continue. Encircle is a great example. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that organization.
Kara Swisher I am. They build homes.
Tim Cook But they build homes. They have kids that come to these homes. They have programs built around. It’s a safe place to be. I think that program is scalable. And so we want to help that in any way that we can. And I’m going to speak out on laws and regulations that pop up that are discriminatory to the community.
Kara Swisher What about Arkansas? Arkansas has passed a bill allowing doctors to refuse to treat LGBTQ patients. How do you look at issues like this?
Tim Cook This is, everybody should be treated with dignity and respect. If you go in to a doctor, they should treat you. I’m surprised we’re even having to say that. It’s disappointing.
Kara Swisher Yeah. Are you worried?
Tim Cook I’m worried that there seems to be more of a move afoot in a number of states in this front, uh, very focused on transgender and then some focused on the broader community. And I think this encroachment needs to stop.
Kara Swisher All right, so 10 years. Are you going to be at Apple 10 more years?
Tim Cook 10 more years, I probably not. But I can tell you that I feel great right now. And the date’s not in sight. But 10 more years is a long time and probably not 10 more years.
Kara Swisher What would you do if you weren’t running Apple?
Tim Cook I don’t have a clue, because I love this company so much, that it’s hard to imagine my life without it.
Kara Swisher Right.
Tim Cook And so I don’t think I will know that until after I’m not here. Because I think I’ll run so fast that I’ll never really think about it until I’m not running anymore. Does that make any sense?
Kara Swisher Maybe just go on vacation.
Tim Cook [LAUGHS]
Kara Swisher Something like that. All right, Tim, thank you so much.
Tim Cook Kara, it was great talking with you. Good seeing you.
Kara Swisher All right, bye.
Tim Cook Bye-bye. [MUSIC PLAYING]
Kara Swisher “Sway” is a production of “New York Times” Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong, and Daphne Chen; edited by Nayeema Raza and Paula Szuchman; with original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Erick Gomez, and fact-checking by Kate Sinclair. Special thanks to Shannon Busta, Liriel Higa, and Jamie Collazo. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If you’re listening on The Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you via mixed-reality glasses, download any podcast app, then search for “Sway” and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday.