Apple CEO Tim Cook was compelled to work for Steve Jobs after realizing the man was a creative genius who wanted to change the world. At GQ, Zach Baron profiles Cook, helping us get to know the reserved man from Mobile, Alabama, who rose to acclaim overseeing Apple’s supply chain and took over as CEO in 2011, following Jobs’s death. Today, Apple is the most successful company on the planet, valued at $3 trillion, a figure roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of the United Kingdom. And with Apple devices in so many hands around the world, Cook is intensely aware of technology’s ability to not just solve problems, but create them.

In his tenure as CEO, Cook has rarely missed an opportunity to decry, usually with a fair amount of heat in his voice, what he describes as the “data-industrial complex”—a complex built of companies (and Apple competitors) who profit from the use and sale of their consumer’s personal information and data. This practice, Cook said in another public moment, “degrades our fundamental right to privacy first, and our social fabric by consequence,” and helps build an ecosystem full of “rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms.”

If you ask Cook, a notoriously private person himself, why this subject is so important to him, he will pivot the conversation back to Apple. “It’s personal for Apple in that we’ve been focused on it from the start of the company,” he told me the first time we met, for an interview in 2021. In Cook’s tenure, Apple has adopted a set of public values and practices that are particularly rigorous around privacy. “We feel privacy is a basic human right,” Cook says. “And so we try to design our products to where we collect the minimum kind of data, and as important, that we put the user in the control chair, where it’s the user’s data and they’re deciding what they want to do with it.” Think of, for instance, the recently rolled-out prompt, the tool Apple calls App Tracking Transparency, that allows you to ask not to be tracked while you’re using any given app. Companies like Meta and Google—fellow tech giants and Apple rivals—had been gathering data on their users, and monetizing that data through advertising, for years. Apple has its own unique advertising business, too, and a partnership with Google that makes their search engine the default on Safari, Apple’s web browser. But Cook nevertheless led Apple to give the company’s customers this tool to prevent their data from being harvested and sold. (And in the process, just so happened to deal a blow to the business of its competitors.)