Apple CEO on Trump boycott: ‘I haven’t talked to him’

Apple CEO Tim Cook said he’s not sure what the rationale is behind Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHouse Republican group raised more than M in October Five takeaways from Florida Senate debate Chaffetz says he'll vote for Trump MORE’s call for a boycott of Apple.

Trump, the business mogul leading the GOP presidential race, recently urged his supporters to avoid Apple products after the company rebuffed an FBI court order seeking help to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

“I haven’t talked to him so I don’t know what he thinks,” Cook said in a Time magazine interview published Thursday.

Trump has been the most vocal critic of Apple on the campaign trail since the tech company defied the court order.

Apple argued the request would create a dangerous “back door” that may give hackers access to all iPhones. The company also insisted that complying would set a precedent that empowers law enforcement to force other companies to undermine its security.

But Trump swiftly denounced Apple’s logic, within hours asking, “Who do they think they are?” Days later, Trump called for the boycott of Apple products at a rally.

“Tim Cook is looking to do a big number, probably to show how liberal he is,” Trump said.

Cook, responding publicly for the first time to Trump’s comments, explained that while Apple is not a policy “decisionmaker,” it does have a responsibility to take a stance against government overreach.

“The way I look at it is, Apple is this great American company that could have only happened here,” Cook said. “And we see it as our responsibility to stand up on something like this and speak up for all these people that are thinking what we’re thinking but don’t have the voice.

“We understand Congress sets laws,” he added. “But we [see] it as our role not to just let it happen. I mean too many times in history has this happened, where the government over-reached, did something that in retrospect somebody should have stood up and said, ‘Stop.’”

Trump has sided with many congressional Republicans, and some Democrats, who believe Apple should comply in an effort to counteract the increasing use by criminals and terrorists of encryption to hide from law enforcement.

The so-called going dark phenomenon has worried the FBI and has driven several lawmakers to draft legislation that would force companies like Apple to comply with court orders seeking secure data.

Cook pushed back against the “going dark” characterization, which many blame on Apple and other tech companies that have made robust encryption standard in recent years.  

“My only point is, going dark is ... — this is a crock,” Cook said. “No one’s going dark.”

Cook said there is not enough focus on the increasing amount of data investigators can access today that they couldn't see a decade ago.

“It’s fair to say that if you send me a message and it’s encrypted, it’s fair to say they can’t get that without going to you or to me, unless one of us has it in our cloud at this point,” he said. “That’s fair to say. But we shouldn’t all be fixated just on what’s not available. We should take a step back and look at the total that’s available.”