Apple chief executive Tim Cook has called for new and tougher US data protection laws in a speech he gave in Europe.
Tim Cook said deeply personal data was being ‘weaponised against us with military efficiency’
‘We shouldn’t sugar-coat the consequences,’ he added. ‘This is surveillance.’
The speech strongly defended user privacy rights, surprisingly what you’d expect from a tech giant CEO.
Cook gave the speech in Brussels, at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. He also commended the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduced in May for data protection regulation.
Discussing what he called the ‘data industrial complex – how likes and dislikes, wishes and fears, hopes and dreams – are aggregated and tracked by advertisers and tech firms to fuel a billion-dollar industry, he warned the situation should ‘unsettle us.’
He noted that the trade in personal data served only to enrich the companies that collect it
EU leading the Data protection issue
‘This year, you’ve shown the world that good policy and political will can come together to protect the rights of everyone,’ he said.
‘It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead.
‘We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.’
The remark was met with applause from the conference audience.
‘I think it is striking that he’s saying this,’ said Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.
‘It’s the kind of thing you normally hear from civil society organisations.’
Mr. Killock said he thought the call for a US privacy law was ‘extremely important.’
He also suggested that Mr. Cook may have been motivated by commercial interests.
‘US companies are losing trust and without that trust, they cannot make the digital economy function as well as it should,’ said Mr. Killock, referring to the negative public reaction surrounding data breaches and cases of data misuse.
However, Prof Mark Elliot at Manchester University argued Mr. Cook did not go far enough.
‘The implication of fully functioning privacy in a digital democracy is that individuals would control and manage their own data and organisations would have to request access to that data rather than the other way round,’ he said.
Apple has long been committed to privacy protection.
The firm was famously locked in a dispute with the FBI over the fact that it would not help the bureau access data on the phone of a dead gunman who was involved in the San Bernardino shooting in 2015.
Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, chief executives of Facebook and Google, will also appear at the conference later this week in the form of pre-recorded video messages.