Apple’s Tim Cook says regulation of Silicon Valley is ‘inevitable’


Apple CEO Tim Cook.

James Martin/CNET

Silicon Valley might have had plenty of freedom to “move fast and break things,” but the days of tech giants getting a free rein could soon be over.

That’s according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who says regulation of the tech industry is now “inevitable.”

Speaking in an interview with Axios on HBO aired on Sunday night, the chief executive and head of the biggest public company had a word of warning for Silicon Valley.

“Generally speaking I am not a big fan of regulation,” he said from the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. “I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn’t worked here. And I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation.”

It’s the big question facing Silicon Valley as tech giants such as Apple, Facebook and Google wrestle with their role in shaping modern society. From building the devices and services we use (and overuse) every day, to determining how we access news and even how we engage with democracy — the tech giants are no longer just upstarts operating out of a garage.

The tech giants themselves have been forced to reckon with their growing power. Apple has gone toe-to-toe with the FBI over privacy in the age of terrorism, Google has been forced to answer questions about its reported censored search engine for China and in just the past week, Facebook has once again been lambasted over its response to Russian meddling on its platform during the 2016 US presidential election.

Cook touched on some of these questions in his interview, albeit without breaking much new ground.

On diversity in Silicon Valley, he believes “from a gender point of view that the Valley has missed it” but that things are improving.

On privacy, Cook said the industry shouldn’t see the issue as “privacy vs. profits or privacy vs. technical innovation. That’s a false choice. What we’ve done is your device has incredible intelligence about you but I don’t have to have all of that as a company.”

On the issue of smartphone addiction, Cook admits he is still glued to his phone for “several hours” a day, but looking at his trends over time he’s picking up his phone less.

And whether tech is a power for good or evil? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

“Technology is good or evil as you put it depending upon the creator,” Cook said. “Many times it’s not that the Creator set out to do evil. It’s that there wasn’t an anticipation of these negative things that it could be used for.”

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