Apple CEO Tim Cook denies access to Facebook user data

"We've never been in the data business," Cook tells NPR.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

Apple CEO Tim Cook says Apple has no agreement in place for access to Facebook users' data.

James Martin/CNET

  Apple has no agreement in place for access to Facebook users' data, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday.

"We've never been in the data business," Cook told NPR, responding to a New York Times report Sunday that Facebook had agreements to provide access to large amounts of user data to at least 60 different device makers -- including companies like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and BlackBerry .

"The things mentioned in the Times article about relationship statuses and all these kinds of stuff, this is so foreign to us, and not data that we have ever received at all or requested -- zero," Cook told NPR.

"What we did was we integrated the ability to share in the operating system, make it simple to share a photo and that sort of thing," Cook added. "So it's a convenience for the user. We weren't in the data business. We've never been in the data business."

Apple has become a big proponent for user privacy in the past several years. Cook has even warned, in multiple interviews, about the dangers of social media and other free online services.

In a 2014 interview with Charlie Rose, Cook said that "everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? … If they're making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what's happening to that data. And companies, I think, should be very transparent about it."

Facebook has been under scrutiny since the revelation in March that consultancy Cambridge Analytica had misused Facebook user data in the lead up to the 2016 US presidential election. Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified in front of Congress and the European Parliament to answer questions about Facebook's handling of user data.

In a test, a New York Times reporter logged into Facebook using a 2013 BlackBerry device, using an account with roughly 550 friends, monitoring the data requested and received. Through a BlackBerry app called The Hub, the device was able to acquire "identifying information" for up to 295,000 Facebook users.

Sen. John Thune, head of the US Senate Commerce Committee, said Monday his committee "will be sending Facebook a letter seeking additional information" about issues including transparency and privacy risks.

A Facebook spokesman said: "We look forward to addressing any questions the Commerce Committee may have."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook's data mining scandal.

Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.