Sideloading Apps Would 'Break' the Security and Privacy of iPhone, Says Tim Cook

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times' Kara Swisher, on her podcast "Sway," Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about Apple's feud with Facebook, its stance on privacy, Apple's legal battle with Epic Games, and possible future Apple innovations such as Apple Glasses.

tim cook apple park
Apple is in the midst of a heated public spat with Facebook over privacy, particularly over an upcoming feature on iOS that will require apps to ask for users consent before tracking them.

The new feature called ATT, or App Tracking Transparency, coming with iOS 14.5 in "a few weeks," according to Cook, will force apps to ask users for permission to track them across other apps and websites. Facebook has argued vehemently against the new feature, saying it impacts small businesses that rely on personalized ads, derived from tracking, to keep afloat.

‌Tim Cook‌ says he disagrees with that argument, indirectly saying that Facebook's point of view is "flimsy." Cook calls privacy the "top issue of the 21st century," adding that with tracking, companies, such as Facebook are able to put "together an entire profile of what you're thinking and what you're doing."

What [App Tracking Transparency] 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.

They'll see a simple pop-up that basically prompts them to answer the question, are they OK with being tracked or not? If they are, things move on. If they're not, then the tracking is turned off.

When asked how the new feature will impact Facebook, Cook says he's not "focused on Facebook," saying Apple adds new tools and features every year that improves and doubles down on user privacy. Speaking more specifically to what actions may need to be taken against companies that track users, Cook says he used to be a firm believer in the ability for companies to regulate themselves but notes that's now changed.

Generally speaking, I think privacy is one of the top issues of the 21st century, and I think we're in a crisis. 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.

In a speech at a privacy conference in January, Cook strongly condemned social media companies that fuel conspiracy theories thanks to their algorithms. Cook says that Apple doesn't have a social media platform that is "pushing stuff in your feed," but notes it does have the App Store which it takes careful consideration in curating content for.

Well, you know, 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 new 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. Which is what tech is in a large way. If you have a platform, you amplify things.

Cook in typical Apple fashion never comments on future, unreleased Apple products. However, possibly hinting at ‌Apple Glasses‌, Cook says AR is "critically" important for the future of Apple. The CEO envisions a future where conversations include more than just words, but include charts, and "other things" appearing in a virtual space.

Well, I can't talk about anything that we may or may not have 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. 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. And I think the promise is even greater in the future. So it's a critically important part of Apple's future.

Speaking about Apple's fight with Epic Games, Cook says that Epic had long followed ‌App Store‌ rules, but decided to no longer follow the guidelines all other developers follow. Cook says Apple is "confident" in its case with the gaming giant.

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 throughout the review process, 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.

One of ‌Epic Games‌' biggest arguments about the Apple ecosystem is the lack of so-called "freedom" for users to download apps from places other than the ‌App Store‌. Many have long voiced their hope that Apple would allow users to sideload apps onto their device, such as the iPhone. Cook says that sideloading apps, however, would "break the privacy and security" model of the ‌iPhone‌.

In the remainder of the podcast, ‌Tim Cook‌ talks about his relationship with the President Biden administration and said he "probably" will not be Apple's CEO in 10 years. The full 36-minute long podcast is available over at The New York Times.

Top Rated Comments

jafd Avatar
10 months ago
Dear Tim,

Sideloading apps would primarily break App Store revenues and its de facto monopoly, you know it, we know that you know, and you know that we know that you know it.

The fact that Bitcoin scams pass through the App Store review like air passes through a sieve, speaks volumes about the quality and security of your infrastructure.

Now pull the other one, it's got bells on.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sirdir Avatar
10 months ago
Sideloading of apps also compromises security on a mac. Yet I can do it. So let me do it on my iPhone, too. I'm a grown up, let me decide how I use my own device.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kris Kelvin Avatar
10 months ago
As a developer, I hate that I'm forced to use App Store distribution (and some enterprise stuff, but that only works for select use cases) and that I'm therefore limited to Apple-approved ways of doing things (so no low-level tinkery).

As a user, I love that all available apps can be found in the App Store and that I don't have to worry about unsigned stuff running on my iPhone. Sure, App Store reviews aren't perfect, but they're clearly better than nothing.

I can't see any way to make both sides perfectly happy, and if I'd have to choose, I'd prefer to keep things as they are, except for two things:

* Standardized commission of 10%
* No "objectionable content" rejections; if an app is legal in a region, it should be allowed to be distributed (this includes information about drone strike casualties, adult stuff etc.). Showing a warning is fine, as is blocking access for minors.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Phil A. Avatar
10 months ago

As long as Apple isn’t held legally liable why should they care?
Because people would do something stupid, get themselves in a mess and then be all over social media blaming Apple, which would potentially damage their image (which they are fiercely protective of)

Apple have always taken a “we know best” approach with iOS whereas Google have been more pragmatic with Android.

I can see arguments for both approaches but I do believe Apple should be able to apply the rules they want on the platform they developed: if a user wants more freedom and control, there are plenty of other phones on the market
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LFC2020 Avatar
10 months ago
Enough talking Timmy, it’s time for the next apple event.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Naraxus Avatar
10 months ago
No Tim. The ability to sideload apps would break the stranglehold you currently hold over everyone. Your fearmongering over what may happen is crumbling with each passing day.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

tim cook data privacy day

Tim Cook Responds to Facebook Criticism of iOS App Tracking Transparency Changes, Says It's 'Hard To Argue Against' Privacy

Saturday April 3, 2021 1:26 am PDT by
In a preview of an interview with The New York Times' Kara Swisher, set to be published on Monday, April 5, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he's "shocked" at the criticism Apple has received in recent months over upcoming privacy changes in iOS, and claimed that they're "hard to argue against." Apple plans to begin enforcing App Tracking Transparency (ATT) changes following the release of iOS 14.5,...
fortnite apple featured

Apple's Phil Schiller Takes the Stand in Epic Games v. Apple Trial

Monday May 17, 2021 12:17 pm PDT by
Today marked the kickoff of the third week of the Epic Games v. Apple trial, and this week is notable because Epic has finished with its witnesses and we're now transitioning to Apple witnesses, including notable Apple executives. Apple Fellow and former marketing chief Phil Schiller, who is in charge of the App Store, took the stand today. Schiller will testify for up to nine hours, and...
General Snapcaht Apps Feature 2

Snap is 'Happy' to Pay Apple's 30% Commission Rate, Says Evan Spiegel

Friday May 21, 2021 9:36 am PDT by
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel today told CNBC that his company is "happy" to pay Apple's 30 percent cut of in-app purchases because of the benefits that Apple provides with its software and hardware. We really feel like Snapchat wouldn't exist without the iPhone and without the amazing platform that Apple has created. In that sense, I'm not sure we have a choice about paying the 30% fee, and of...
epic iap feature 3

Tim Cook Says App Store Would Become a 'Flea Market' if Third-Party Payment Systems Were Allowed

Monday April 12, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about a wide variety of topics, ranging from App Tracking Transparency to Apple's ongoing legal battle over App Store policies with Fortnite creator Epic Games. Notably, Cook said that Epic Games' desire for Apple to let developers offer their own payment systems in apps "would make the App Store a flea market":At the...
fortnite apple featured

Epic Games vs. Apple Trial Begins With Opening Remarks Underway

Monday May 3, 2021 9:05 am PDT by
The first day of the bench trial between Fortnite creator Epic Games and Apple is officially underway, with the companies delivering opening remarks before District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in a Northern California courtroom. The saga dates back to August 2020, when Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store after Epic Games introduced a direct payment option in the app for its in-game...
tim cook data privacy day

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Privacy is 'One of the Top Issues of the Century'

Thursday January 28, 2021 4:23 pm PST by
Apple CEO Tim Cook this morning spoke at the virtual Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference where he discussed Facebook's business model and Apple's upcoming enforcement of App Tracking Transparency, and afterwards, he elaborated on some of his speech in an interview with Fast Company. Cook said that privacy is "one of the top issues of the century" and that it's important to put ...
tim cook toronto star

Tim Cook Says Apple is 'Not Against Digital Advertising' Ahead of iOS 14.5 Launch With App Tracking Transparency

Monday April 12, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
Starting with iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, Apple will be requiring apps to receive a user's permission to track their activity for targeted advertising purposes, as part of a privacy measure known as App Tracking Transparency. Ahead of App Tracking Transparency being enforced, Apple CEO Tim Cook has participated in a privacy-focused interview with the Toronto Star, telling the...
maxresdefault

Apple Shares Tim Cook's Recent Speech on Apple's Commitment to Privacy

Tuesday February 2, 2021 4:53 pm PST by
Apple CEO Tim Cook last week spoke at the virtual Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference, where he highlighted Apple's commitment to user privacy and condemned the data-hungry business models of companies like Facebook. Apple today shared Cook's full 12-minute speech on its YouTube channel for those who missed the initial release. On January 28, 2021, Apple CEO Tim Cook...

Popular Stories

AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole 16x9 120hz

Analyst: All iPhone 14 Models to Feature 120Hz Displays, 6GB of RAM, and More

Friday January 14, 2022 7:02 am PST by
Apple is rumored to announce four new iPhone 14 models in September, and ahead of time, analyst Jeff Pu has outlined his expectations for the devices. In a research note with Haitong International Securities, obtained by MacRumors, Pu claimed that all iPhone 14 models will feature ProMotion displays, compared to only Pro models currently. ProMotion enables a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz ...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
iPad Pro Big Ol Logo Orange

Next iPad Pro Might Feature Large Glass Apple Logo to Allow Wireless Charging

Friday January 14, 2022 10:44 am PST by
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu last year reported that Apple had tested a new iPad Pro with a glass back for wireless charging capabilities. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said he expects the new iPad Pro to be released in 2022. While the new iPad Pro is still on track to feature wireless charging, 9to5Mac's Filipe Espósito today reported that Apple may have ultimately...
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...