Apple's WWDC 2019 conference in San Jose, California



"Apple builds things that people want to buy." Seems like an obvious sentiment, coming from the executive who leads software development at one of the world's most successful tech companies. 
But that comment underscores why Craig Federighi spent so much time highlighting new privacy features in the operating systems that power the iPhoneiPad and Mac at the start of Apple developers conference on Monday.
"Our business model is one that doesn't require exploiting customers personal information in order to fund our operations," Federighi said in an interview on opening day of Apple's WWDC. "If fundamentally you're depending...on building massive centralized hordes of personal data that you find ways to monetize, that's intrinsically hostile to privacy. That's just fundamentally not how we work in anything we do."
It's an important selling point for Apple, as FederighiApple CEO Tim Cook and privacy chief Bud Tribble have emphasized in interviews this week. And it comes at a time when consumers, reeling from privacy blunders at Facebook and Google in the last year, are asking more questions about how -- and why -- their personal information is being co-opted by tech companies.
Craig Federighi talks iOS 13 at WWDC 2019
Craig Federighi talks iOS 13 at WWDC 2019.
Jason Hiner/CNET
For Apple, talking about privacy translated into a new single sign-in service -- called Sign In with Apple -- to replace the sign-in option commonly used by social media networks to help you navigate access to apps and online services. It will also mean having developers ask for your permission every time they want personal information, like your location, and spell out how that data is being used.
Federighi, who oversees iOSMacOS and a new iPadOS for its tablet, also talked about Apple's approach to tuning its software for each of the devices it powers, and why that means keeping the Mac and iPad separate. And he made a case for why the iPad, with iPadOS, may just be a laptop replacement for some users (though CNET's Scott Stein says the tablet still isn't quite the computer he needs.)
Here are edited highlights of what Federighi had to say in our conversation.
On privacy: Privacy is foundational to Apple. You could go back to the very beginnings of the company. I saw an interview with Steve [Jobs] in the late '70s where he was talking about how, in time-shared computers, they weren't really personal. All of your data was on someone else's thing, and then an Apple II was a very personal device because it's yours. You own it, you have your discs, that's your data. This has been foundational to how we think about computers. And of course our business model is one that doesn't require exploiting customers personal information in order to fund our operations. We build things that people want to buy and we sell them to them. That's a really pure arrangement.
Many other companies are now adopting this rhetoric of privacy. And honestly I think it's just watering down the word. We're going to end up needing to have come up with a new word for what privacy is... I don't think saying that, "Hey, we've got a switch that you can go into incognito mode or privacy mode every once in a while is great, we're a privacy company, we gave you control." No, if fundamentally you're depending on most people not throwing that switch and on building massive centralized hoards of personal data that you find ways to monetize, that's intrinsically hostile to privacy. That's just fundamentally not how we work in anything we do.
On the evolution of the iPad: We had a consistent point of view about iPad and where it's been going all along. Other companies may have entered the tablet space opportunistically or with some kind of very narrow goals around maybe just entertainment. But from the outset, we saw a place for iPad that was better for many things than either of the alternatives -- of a device in your pocket or a laptop. And we've continued -- whether you look at our hardware or software  and those of course evolve in tandem -- to push that experience further and further. So what you saw today is just a continuing result of what we've been doing since the beginning of iPad.
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