Calling out Silicon Valley’s trade in data, Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has demanded new digital privacy laws, insisting that contemporary data mining practices were damaging society.
Speaking at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels, Cook expressed alarm about divisive political rhetoric proliferating social media platforms, and the exploitation of this phenomenon by both governments and rogue actors who “deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false.”
He warned of a “data industrial complex”, which according to him, lets companies “know you better than you may know yourself.” It should be noted that he did not mention any of these companies by name.
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Praising the European Union (EU) for implementing tough data-protection rules, he called on the United States government to work towards passing similar legislation. He added that privacy is a “fundamental human right.”
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation forces companies like Facebook to give users more agency regarding how their data is used. If they fail to do so, they can face heavy financial penalties. This past July, tech titan Google was fined a record $5 billion antitrust fine for bundling its applications on Android devices, making it harder for its competitors to compete. EU regulators are also looking into whether Amazon’s use of sales data gives it an advantage over smaller competitors.
“There are those who would prefer I hadn’t said all of that,” Cook said about his call for privacy legislation in the US. “Some oppose any form of privacy legislation. Others will endorse reform in public, and then resist and undermine it behind closed doors.”
He added,“But this notion isn’t just wrong, it is destructive.”
Speaking about Apple’s own practices in March, he stated “The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that.”