Elon Musk Criticizes Apple's OpenAI Partnership

Elon Musk has issued a stark warning about banning iPhones from all his enterprises following Apple’s announcement at WWDC 2024 regarding new OpenAI integrations. On Monday, Musk, the head of Tesla, SpaceX, and xAI, posted on X to express his concerns. He stated that “if Apple integrates OpenAI into OS level,” Apple devices would be prohibited in his companies, and visitors would need to leave their Apple gadgets at the entrance, where they would be “stored in a Faraday cage.”

Musk’s posts suggest either a misunderstanding of Apple’s collaboration with OpenAI or a deliberate attempt to raise concerns about user privacy. Despite assurances from both Apple and OpenAI that users will be prompted before any data, such as questions, documents, or photos, “are shared with ChatGPT,” Musk seems to believe that OpenAI will be embedded deeply into Apple’s OS, potentially compromising personal and private information.

Apple’s announcement of iOS 18 revealed that users could ask Siri questions, and if ChatGPT could provide a better answer, Siri would request permission to share the query and deliver the response directly. This integration allows users to access ChatGPT’s responses without opening the ChatGPT app. The same protocol applies to photos, PDFs, and other documents users may wish to send to ChatGPT.

Elon Musk clearly preferred that OpenAI’s capabilities remain confined to a standalone app rather than integrated into Siri.

In response to a statement by Sam Pullara, Venture Capitalist and CTO at Sutter Hill Ventures, who noted that OpenAI’s integration required user approval on a per-request basis without granting the AI access to the device, Musk retorted emphatically, “Then leave it as an app. This is bulls***.”

Pullara had indicated that the integration method of ChatGPT mirrored the current functioning of the ChatGPT app, leveraging either Apple’s on-device AI models or those hosted on Apple’s Private Cloud.

Moreover, addressing a post by YouTuber Marques Brownlee on X that provided additional details on Apple Intelligence, Musk criticized Apple’s approach, asserting, “Apple using the words ‘protect your privacy’ while handing your data over to a third-party AI that they don’t understand and can’t themselves create is *not* protecting privacy at all!”

Elon Musk sharply criticized Apple’s new AI integrations, even responding to a post by Apple CEO Tim Cook with a threat to ban Apple devices from his companies if Cook didn’t “stop this creepy spyware.”

“It’s patently absurd that Apple isn’t smart enough to make their own AI, yet is somehow capable of ensuring that OpenAI will protect your security & privacy!” Musk exclaimed in a series of posts addressing the new integrations. “Apple has no clue what’s actually going on once they hand your data over to OpenAI. They’re selling you down the river,” he continued. While Musk’s concerns highlight the complexity of the situation, it appears that users themselves are making the choice to share data with OpenAI, not Apple directly.

Apple also announced a system-wide integration of ChatGPT within Writing Tools via a “compose” feature. This functionality allows users to utilize ChatGPT to write a bedtime story for a child or generate images to complement their writing without creating an OpenAI account. This seamless access is expected to increase requests from Apple users, benefiting OpenAI considerably significantly.

However, Musk’s objections may be more about controlling the narrative on privacy issues. He might not be as vocal if users had the option to choose their preferred AI, such as Anthropic’s Claude or xAI’s Grok, for Siri requests or writing assistance. Interestingly, Apple hinted at a future integration with Google Gemini during a post-keynote session, suggesting a broader AI ecosystem might be on the horizon.

In its recent announcement, Apple assured users that their requests and information will not be logged by default. However, ChatGPT subscribers can directly link their accounts to access premium features through Apple’s AI experiences.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, stated, “Of course, you’re in control over when ChatGPT is used and will be asked before any of your information is shared. ChatGPT integration will be coming to iOS 18, iPadOS 18 and macOS Sequoia later this year,” These new capabilities will be limited to iPhone Pro 15 models and devices equipped with M1 or newer chips.

OpenAI echoed this in its blog post, emphasizing that “requests are not stored by OpenAI, and users’ IP addresses are obscured. Users can also choose to connect their ChatGPT account, which means their data preferences will apply under ChatGPT’s policies.” This optional feature provides an opt-in mechanism for linking to a paid subscription, ensuring users’ preferences are respected.