- Apple CEO Tim Cook launched a scathing attack Wednesday on tech companies that he said hoarded “industrial” amounts of personal data.
- Speaking at a privacy conference in Brussels, he said the stockpiling of personal data amounted to surveillance and should make us “very uncomfortable.”
- Cook did not mention Facebook and Google by name, but he has made thinly veiled remarks about their approach to privacy in the past.
- He said Apple would support the introduction of US federal privacy laws.
Apple’s CEO has launched his most stinging attack yet on tech firms that hoard data.
In a speech at a privacy conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, Tim Cook decried the “data industrial complex” that he said been created to maximise profits.
“Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponised against us with military efficiency,” Cook said at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners on Wednesday.
“Every day billions of dollars change hands and countless decisions are made on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, our relationships and conversations, our wishes and fears, our hopes and dreams.
“These threads of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded, and sold. Taken to its extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself.
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them. This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”
Cook did not mention Facebook or Google by name, but they are an obvious target given they have access to giant pools of personal information that allow them to personalise advertising.
And Cook has criticised Facebook in the past over its approach to privacy, saying Mark Zuckerberg’s company is “beyond” self-regulation. Soon after, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said the firm strongly disagreed with Cook’s characterization of its product.
Cook calls for US federal privacy laws
Cook went on to laud Europe’s recently implemented General Data Protection Regulation privacy laws, adding that it was time for the US to introduce similar regulations.
“It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow suit,” he said. “We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States,” he added to a round of applause.
Cook acknowledged that his view wasn’t necessarily popular in Silicon Valley.
“There are many people who would prefer I hadn’t said all that,” he said. “Some oppose any formal privacy legislation – others will endorse reform in public and then resist and undermine it behind closed doors.
“They may say to you, ‘Our companies can never achieve technology’s true potential if they’re constrained with privacy regulation.’ But this notion isn’t just wrong – it is destructive.”
You can watch Cook’s full speech here:
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