Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company’s privacy policies in a forum on mental health hosted by Jill Biden for spouses of the leaders attending a summit on American-Pacific issues.

The American first lady welcomed several of her counterparts to Apple Park, the 360 acre land where the massive tech company is located, for a conversation on how social media affects mental health.

Joining them in the Steve Jobs Theater was Rose, a singer in the K-Pop group BlackPink who came at Biden’s invitation to remind those present that even famous people struggle with mental health issues.

The hour-long conversation was beset with technical issues at the start and ended with Cook being confronted by the spouse of Malaysian prime minister.

Jill Biden and Apple CEO Tim Cook host an event about mental health

Jill Biden and Apple CEO Tim Cook host an event about mental health

BlackPink's Rose talked about her struggles with mental health

BlackPink’s Rose talked about her struggles with mental health 

The previous day the Apple CEO had joined his fellow tech executives for a dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, being held on the sidelines of the Asian Pacific Economic Conference. Elon Musk also attended the event, which was a hot ticket for business executives.

The leaders of 21 nations are in San Francisco for the conference on economic and trade issues.  

On the sidelines of the summit, Cook welcomed the 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 compounded the pressure she felt and the struggles she faced as her Kpop group exploded to fame seemingly overnight.

The New Zealand singer and dancer, who real name is Roseanne Park, noted how – with 75 million followers on Instagram – just having a few negative comments can be hurtful.

‘I do feel like some of the things I do is just never enough and no matter how hard I work on something, there’s always gonna be somebody who has their own opinion or who enjoy taking control of the narrative. And so, that comes to me as a sense of loneliness,’ she said.

‘Sometimes feeling like I have such a huge following of people … they’re not always on my side,’ she admitted, adding she then felt ‘vulnerable in this whole journey with this massive following. And so I think social media does affect me.’

Rose auditioned for her South Korean label YG Entertainment at 15 and made the cut, which resulted 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 feed 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, the first lady of South Korea, helped arrange for the pop star’s attendance and sat next to her during the conversation.

Rose and Jill Biden at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus

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, spouse of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Tim Cook, Apple CEO, Jill Biden, US First Lady, Louise Araneta-Marcos, First Lady of the Philippines, Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail, Spouse of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General pose for a photo following a conversation on mental health

Rose, Korean-New Zealand singer member of Blackpink, Kim Keon Hee, First Lady of South Korea, Rachael Marape, spouse of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Tim Cook, Apple CEO, Jill Biden, US First Lady, Louise Araneta-Marcos, First Lady of the Philippines, Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail, Spouse of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General pose for a photo following a conversation on mental health

Jill Biden said she brought the group together to talk about the importance of connection and how to support mental health struggles, which she noted became more pronounced during the COVID pandemic.

‘Because when people have the tools and the resources to support their mental health and well being – they thrive. And they help us create stronger communities and stronger economies, and that’s what this APEC summit is all about – coming together to build a brighter, more resilient future,’ the first lady said.

Biden also noted there was a ‘marked difference’ in how mental health is talked now about compared to pre pandemic. 

She noted the shutdown was hard on everyone. 

‘I think it’s human nature to get on each others nerves after a while,’ she said.

But  Dr. Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail, the spouse of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, stole the show when she asked Cook about the role artificial intelligence plays with mental health issues and demanded to know what his company was doing about privacy issues.

‘If you’ve ever had an Apple watch, you are being watched all the time,’ she said. 

‘Absolutely not actually,’ Cook responded. 

He then argued Apple was a ‘privacy company.’

‘We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. And so we collect very little data, the data that 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 it is somebody wanted to get that from us, we don’t have it. It’s data that we never collect.’

Ismail, a medical doctor and former deputy prime minister of her country, is married to Anwar Ibrahim. In 1998, her husband was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for corruption and sodomy in a trial decried by Amnesty International, who claimed he had been arrested in order 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 can be affected if data is hacked from Apple devices. 

He responded that ‘we see that one of the very key roles that we had is providing people privacy and security. These two things go hand in hand.’

Apple and other tech companies are struggling with privacy issues as American law enforcement agencies have increasingly made use of data collected and stored by tech companies in investigations and prosecutions. 

Civil liberty advocates have repeatedly raised concerns about authorities’ access to people’s digital information.

Malaysia's first lady Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, middle, speaks between Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, left, Philippines first lady Louise Araneta-Marcos, right, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, foreground, during a discussion on mental health

Malaysia’s first lady Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, middle, speaks between Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, left, Philippines first lady Louise Araneta-Marcos, right, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, foreground, during a discussion on mental health 

Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company's privacy policies

Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company’s privacy policies

Meanwhile, the event began with some technical issues: the telepromter stopped working and non-working microphones had to be switched out for those that did.

Cook had just begun his formal remarks welcoming the group when he said: ‘The teleprompter just went out.’ 

‘Don’t you hate that. I hate that,’ Jill Biden said.

He soldiered on with his introduction.

And he and the first lady even got a little flirty. 

Cook noted ‘I heard here today some people spending too much time on on their devices. We’ve never wanted people to spend a lot of time on the the iPhone. You know, my my own view is if you’re spending more time on your phone then you are looking into somebody’s eyes, you’re doing the wrong thing.’ 

‘Very romantic,’ Biden said. 

‘It’s very romantic,’ he agreed. 

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