Tim Cook: 'We Don't Buy' the Need to Give Up Privacy for AI

iOS-9-SiriDuring today's fourth quarter 2016 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about Siri, artificial intelligence, home assistants vs. mobile assistants, and balancing AI with security, which led to some interesting new insights into Siri's popularity and Apple's privacy stance.

According to Cook, Apple is now getting more than 2 billion Siri requests per week. "It's very large," he said, "and to the best of our knowledge, we've shipped more assistant enabled devices than anyone out there." He went on to highlight Apple's efforts to deliver a great Siri experience around the world. While most AI services are limited to the United States, Siri is available in many countries. "We put a lot of energy into that," Cook said.

Cook also said that he believes there's more value in having a phone with a personal assistant built in, like Siri, than a home device. "We live in a mobile society," he said. "People are constantly moving from home to work and to other things they may be doing. And so the advantage of having an assistant on your phone is that it's with you all the time." He went on to say that there's still a market for a home assistant like the Amazon Echo, but that usage on a phone "will likely be much greater."

On security, Cook said that Apple does not believe there's a need to compromise security for the sake of artificial intelligence.

In terms of the balance of privacy and AI, this is a long conversation, but at a high level, this is a false tradeoff. People would like you to believe you have to give up privacy to have AI do something for you, but we don't buy that. It might take more work, it might take more thinking, but I don't think we should throw our privacy away. It's sort of like the age old argument between privacy and security. You should have both. You shouldn't have to make a choice.

In the past, rumors have suggested that Apple's staunch dedication to privacy has held back the development of Siri. Apple is said to employ "policy czars" that make sure Apple services are not collecting customer data, something that has restricted the way Siri can be used.

Apple has, however, made some important steps forward with Siri in recent years through the use of machine learning and a neural network, advancements Cook highlighted earlier in the call. Just this year, Apple was able to open up Siri to third-party developers, and the company is said to be hard at work on some major improvements that will allow Siri to do more and to be built into products like a rumored Echo-like smart home device.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
52 months ago
Privacy is one of the reasons i stick with apple.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago

More mullarkey from Tim. Apple's privacy stance is precisely what's been holding Siri back from being useful in any meaningful way. I get far more accurate results with Google Now/Assistant & Amazon's Alexa than I ever have using Siri. At this point Siri is more of a hindrance than a useful tool.

Good. If that's the tradeoff, I'll take inherent privacy over a few more features when I choose to talk to my phone. Any day of the week.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
Tim is right -- this time.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
Siri is far from perfect, but I applaud Apple's hard line stance on privacy.

Keep it up Apple and I will keep spending my money with you. I believe privacy takes precedence over Siri and that in time, any trade offs being made between the two will be worked out.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago
LOL. Sure Tim! Siri is trash!

By the way, I would just like to point out how people get uptight about privacy, but then 5 minutes later post their entire life to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, etc.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
52 months ago

More mullarkey from Tim. Apple's privacy stance is precisely what's been holding Siri back from being useful in any meaningful way. I get far more accurate results with Google Now/Assistant & Amazon's Alexa than I ever have using Siri. At this point Siri is more of a hindrance than a useful tool.

And customers like me thank him for it and stick with Apple because of it because we value our privacy more than a digital assistant.


They don't want to give up your privacy yet THEY receive 2 billion Siri requests every week!!

Nope, the only way for his statement to be true is for Apple to not receive a damn thing from you. And Siri will always be poorer too then it's competition. I would appreciate it relinquishing privacy for better services and more accuracy.

At this point Apples stupid comments about 'privacy' are nothing more then advertising soundbite gimmicks.

Google uses things like all the search and email data that they have, prior requests, contacts, basically everything that they can possibly pull and links it together (albeit 'anonymized') to provide the results they do. Apple doesn't do that. Maybe you're okay with blithely handing over everything about you for the profits of Google's coffers, but some of us aren't and I appreciate Apple being willing to give those of us in that camp an option. If they didn't then we'd have no options at all.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Pro in Graphite and iPhone 12 in Blue Shown Off in Unboxing Videos

Monday October 19, 2020 8:20 am PDT by
While the iPhone 12 Pro does not launch until Friday, we now have an early unboxing video of the device courtesy of Twitter account DuanRui, providing a closer look at the shiny new flat-edge design and sleek Graphite color option. Ben Geskin re-uploaded the unboxing video to YouTube, which we've embedded below: Geskin has also uploaded an unboxing video of the iPhone 12 in Blue: ...

Kuo: iPhone 12 Pro Demand Higher Than Expected

Sunday October 18, 2020 10:39 pm PDT by
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released a research note this morning detailing what he's seen with the volume of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro pre-orders in the first weekend of sales. Kuo had previously indicated that Apple's estimated shipment allocations for the new iPhone models placed the iPhone 12 at the top with 40-45% of inventory allocation (up from 15-20%). However, ...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Hands-On With Apple's MagSafe Charger for iPhone 12

Monday October 19, 2020 11:54 am PDT by
Alongside the new iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a MagSafe charger that attaches to the back of the iPhones using magnets embedded both in the charger and in the iPhone. It allows for speedier charging and paves the way for a portless iPhone in the future. MagSafe chargers are shipping out and are in some Apple retail locations now, and we picked one up to check it out. Subscribe to the ...

Some Apple Watch SE Owners Experiencing Issues With Overheating [Updated]

Monday October 19, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
There may be an issue with the new Apple Watch SE, which some users have found is overheating after a few hours of usage. Several Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea have run into problems, as noted in a Reddit post chronicling the complaints. There have been six reports from Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea who have had their Apple Watches get hot and malfunction, with a yellow spot...

Apple's New MagSafe Charger and Cases Begin Arriving to Customers

Saturday October 17, 2020 10:10 am PDT by
Apple's new MagSafe charger and cases have begun arriving to some customers earlier than expected, and images of the accessories have started to surface on Twitter. The photos provide a first look at the products in real-world use. As of writing, some MagSafe cases are also available for pickup at select Apple Stores in countries like the United States, Canada, and Germany. Filip...

Apple Releases iPadOS and iOS 14.1 With Multiple Bug Fixes Ahead of iPhone 12 Launch

Tuesday October 20, 2020 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.1, the first major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 14 operating system updates that were released in September. iOS and iPadOS 14.1 come a week after Apple released the golden master versions of the updates to developers. The iOS 14.1 update can be downloaded for free and it is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access...

Watch: iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Unboxing Videos and First Impressions

Tuesday October 20, 2020 6:05 am PDT by
Apple's embargo has lifted for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro reviews. In addition to our detailed review roundups for each device, we've rounded up over a dozen unboxing videos and first impressions below. iPhone 12 in Blue on left and iPhone 12 Pro in Pacific Blue on right via Engadget Key new features of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro include a flat-edge design, 5G support, a much faster A14 ...

Apple Plans to Enable 5G in Dual SIM Mode With Software Update Later This Year

Monday October 19, 2020 9:20 am PDT by
iPhone XS models and newer feature both a physical SIM slot and a digital eSIM, allowing for a feature known as dual SIM, dual standby. This means you can have two lines of service on one iPhone, which is useful for purchasing data-only plans while traveling abroad or having personal and business lines on a single iPhone. 5G will not be available in Dual SIM mode on the iPhone 12 and iPhone...

Brazilian Certifications Suggest iPhone 12 Mini Features 2,227mAh Battery and iPhone 12 Has 2,815mAh Battery

Friday October 16, 2020 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone mini has the shortest battery life out of all the iPhones in the iPhone 12 lineup due to its small size, but Apple has not provided public information about the battery's capacity. A regulatory filing from Brazil, however, suggests the iPhone 12 mini has a battery capacity of 2,227mAh. The same regulatory information says the iPhone 12 features a 2,815mAh battery, which is...