Tim Cook defends Apple’s privacy policies in front of Jill Biden, the world’s first ladies and BlackPink star Rose – after sparking controversy by dining with Xi
The US first lady welcomed some of her counterparts to Apple Park, the 360-hectare land where the massive tech company is based, for a conversation about how social media affects mental health.
Joining them at the Steve Jobs Theater was Rose, a singer from the K-Pop group BlackPink, who came at Biden’s invitation to remind attendees that even famous people struggle with mental health issues.
The hour-long conversation was initially fraught with technical difficulties and ended with Cook being confronted by the wife of the Malaysian prime minister.
Jill Biden and Apple CEO Tim Cook host an event on mental health
BlackPink’s Rose opened up about her struggles with mental health
The day before, Apple’s CEO had joined his fellow tech executives for a dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which took place on the sidelines of the Asian Pacific Economic Conference. Elon Musk also attended the event, which was a hot ticket for business leaders.
The leaders of 21 countries are in San Francisco for the conference on economic and trade issues.
On the sidelines of the summit, Cook welcomed Jill Biden, four spouses and a Korean pop star to his company’s campus to talk about mental health.
During the hour-long conversation, Rose, 26, discussed how being in the public eye was the pressure she felt and the struggles she faced as her Kpop group exploded to fame seemingly overnight , worsened.
The New Zealand singer and dancer, whose real name is Roseanne Park, noted how – with 75 million followers on Instagram – just having a few negative comments can be hurtful.
‘I feel like some of the things I do are just never enough and no matter how hard I work on something, there will always be someone who has their own opinion or who likes to take control of the story. And so that comes across to me as a sense of loneliness,” she said.
“Sometimes I feel like I have such a big following of people… they’re not always on my side,” she admitted, subsequently feeling “vulnerable in this whole journey with this huge following.” And so I think social media does influence me.”
Rose auditioned for her South Korean label YG Entertainment at the age of 15 and made the cut, resulting in hours of choreography and vocal rehearsals to become one of the four members of the biggest girl group in the world.
“Just as we nourish ourselves for better health and fitness, mental health can only be maintained equally – if not more intentionally – as our physical well-being,” she said.
Kim Keon Hee, South Korea’s first lady, helped arrange the pop star’s presence and sat next to her during the conversation.
Rose and Jill Biden at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus
Rose, Korean-New Zealand singer, member of Blackpink, Kim Keon Hee, First Lady of South Korea, Rachael Marape, wife of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Jill Biden, US First Lady , Louise Araneta-Marcos, First Lady of the Philippines, Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail, wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General pose for a photo after a discussion on mental health
Jill Biden said she brought the group together to talk about the importance of connection and how to support mental health care, which she noted has become more apparent during the COVID pandemic.
“Because when people have the tools and resources to support their mental health and wellbeing, they thrive. And they help us create stronger communities and stronger economies, and that’s what this APEC summit is about: coming together to build a better, more resilient future,” the first lady said.
Biden also noted that there was a “marked difference” in the way mental health is talked about now compared to before the pandemic.
She noted that the shutdown was difficult for everyone.
“I think it’s human nature to get on each other’s nerves after a while,” she said.
But Dr. Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail, the wife of Malaysia’s prime minister, stole the show when she asked Cook about the role artificial intelligence plays in mental health issues and demanded what his company was doing about privacy issues.
“If you’ve ever had an Apple Watch, you’re constantly being watched,” she said.
“Absolutely not,” Cook replied.
He then argued that Apple was a “privacy company.”
‘We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. And so we collect very little data; the data that is collected is on your device,” he said. ‘These are encrypted and Apple doesn’t even see them. We can’t see them. And if anyone wants that from us, we don’t have it. It is data that we never collect.’
Ismail, a doctor and former deputy prime minister of her country, is married to Anwar Ibrahim. In 1998, her husband was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and sodomy in a trial denounced by Amnesty International, which claimed he had been arrested to silence him as a political opponent. He was released from prison in 2004 and became prime minister in 2022.
Ismail was one of Malaysia’s highest-ranking women. She told Cook that mental health could be affected if data from Apple devices is hacked.
He responded, “We see that one of the most important roles we had is providing people with privacy and security. These two things go hand in hand.’
Apple and other tech companies are grappling with privacy issues as U.S. law enforcement agencies have increasingly used data collected and stored by tech companies in investigations and prosecutions.
Civil liberties advocates have repeatedly raised concerns about authorities’ access to people’s digital information.
Malaysian First Lady Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, center, speaks between Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, left, Philippine first lady Louise Araneta-Marcos, right, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, foreground, during a discussion on mental health
Meanwhile, the event started with some technical problems: the telepromter stopped working and non-working microphones had to be swapped for ones that did.
Cook had just begun his formal speech welcoming the group when he said, “The teleprompter just went out.”
‘Don’t you hate that. I hate that,” Jill Biden said.
He continued with his introduction.
And he and the first lady even got a little flirty.
Cook noted, “I heard here today that some people are spending too much time on their devices. We never wanted people to spend a lot of time on the iPhone. You know, my opinion is that if you spend more time on your phone than you do looking someone in the eye, you’re doing the wrong thing.”
“Very romantic,” Biden said.
“It’s very romantic,” he agreed.