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Apple CEO Tim Cook being interviewed on "Axios on HBO"

If Apple is so big on users' privacy, why does the company take billions of dollars from Google in exchange for letting the search giant be the default search engine on iPhones, iPads and Macs? It's a question that has been on my mind a lot amid the raging debate over how much control individuals should have over their data.

Why it matters: Apple likes to make the case that while most of the Big Tech companies make money from selling your information, it makes money from selling you products. But it also gets a lot of money from Google, which only pays that amount because it makes more than that from Apple's customers.

What they're saying: In an interview with "Axios on HBO," Cook defended the move ...

"One, I think their search engine is the best. ... But, two, look at what we've done with the controls we've built in. We have private web browsing. We have an intelligent tracker prevention. What we've tried to do is come up with ways to help our users through their course of the day. It's not a perfect thing. I'd be the very first person to say that. But it goes a long way to helping."
— Tim Cook

Between the lines: Cook is pointing to a range of things Apple has done to limit how much information Google or any other web giant can collect on Apple users. It also offers users alternatives to Google for search, as long as they are willing to look deep in the device's settings.

  • If you go to the settings menu and select the Safari browser app, you can choose among Google, Bing, Yahoo and the privacy-centric, but lesser-known, DuckDuckGo.

Cook also spoke to Axios about a range of other topics, from his enthusiasm for augmented reality to his 4 am alarm to his own iPhone usage. And he called U.S. regulation of the tech industry "inevitable."

  • Cook still uses his phone several hours a day even after he started tracking his usage with Screen Time. But, he said, "My notifications are declining, the number of times I pick up a device are declining and the only reason they are is because we built this functionality into our operating system and I now know what I was doing. "
  • Cook gets up a little before 4 am. "I like to take the first hour and go through user comments and things like this that sort of focus on the external people that are so important to us. And then I go to the gym and work out for an hour because it keeps my stress at bay."
  • When it comes to regulation, Cook said he prefers to let the free market iron things out. "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."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.