Tim Cook calls for US federal privacy law to tackle ‘weaponized’ personal data

 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Tim Cook calls for US federal privacy law to tackle ‘weaponized’ personal data” was written by Guardian staff and agencies, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 24th October 2018 18.24 UTC

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, called on Wednesday for a federal privacy law in the US to protect against voracious internet companies hoarding so much digital data that the businesses know citizens “better than they know themselves” – and then often sell the information on.

Cook warned in a keynote speech that personal data was being “weaponized” against the public and endorsed tough privacy laws for both Europe and the US. The iPhone and Mac computer giant has stood out in its explicit declarations that Apple prefers to protect its customers’ personal data.

Speaking at an international conference in Brussels on data privacy,Cook applauded European Union authorities for bringing in a strict new data privacy law in May, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This gives consumers more control over their personal information and imposes greater restrictions and transparency rules on all companies, with the threat of fines, but particularly affects the chains of companies that exploit digitally acquired data, including tech leaders such as Google and Facebook and middlemen marketers and data brokers.

“In many jurisdictions, regulators are asking tough questions. 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,” he said.

The conference featured brief video comments from the Facebook chairman, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, asserting various steps they are taking to give users greater protection, in moves observers saw as a jostling by tech giants to curry favor in Europe as regulators intensify their scrutiny.

Cook warned that the trade in personal information “has exploded into a data industrial complex”.

Data protection has become a major political issue worldwide and European regulators have led the charge in setting new rules for the big internet companies. The GDPR requires companies to change the way they do business in the region, and a number of headline-grabbing data breaches have raised public awareness of the issue.

California is moving to put in regulations similar to the EU’s rules by 2020 and other US states are mulling more aggressive laws, all of which have rattled the big tech companiesas they lobby for any US federal law to treat them more leniently.

Cook warned that technology’s promise to drive breakthroughs that benefit humanity is at risk of being overshadowed by the harm it can cause by deepening division and spreading false information.

“Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” he said. Scraps of personal data are collected for digital profiles that let businesses know users better than they know themselves and allow companies to offer users “increasingly extreme content” that hardens their convictions, Cook said.

“This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them,” he said. “This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”

Cook’s appearance represented a one-up on his tech rivals as he used the opportunity to show off his company’s credentials in data privacy, which has become a weak point for both Facebook and Google, boosted by the fact that Apple makes most of its money by selling hardware such as iPhones and laptops instead of online advertisements targeted on the basis of user data.

Tim Cook visit poses with conference attendees in Brussels.
Tim Cook visit poses with conference attendees in Brussels. Photograph: Isopix/Rex/Shutterstock

In his remarks to the annual meeting of global data privacy chiefs, this year held in Brussels, the Belgian capital and political nucleus of the European Union, Zuckerberg said the social network takes seriously its “basic ethical responsibility” to safeguard personal information. But he added that “the past year has shown we have a lot more work to do,” referring to a big data breach and the scandal over the misuse of data by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Both he and Pichai said they supported regulation, with Pichai noting Google recently proposed a legislative framework that would build on GDPR and extend many of its principles to users globally.

In the first big test of the new rules, Ireland’s data protection commission, which is a lead authority for Europe as many big tech firms are based in the country, is investigating Facebook’s data breach, which let hackers access 3m EU-based accounts.

Google, meanwhile, shut down its Plus social network this month after revealing it had a flaw that could have exposed personal information of up to half a million people.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

You may also like

0 comments

By