Apple boss takes aim at 'weaponization' of customer data

Todd Singleton
October 27, 2018

Cook also praised the European Union's new data protection regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which has instituted sweeping changes to personal data protection and made the heads of tech companies liable for breach of data.

Cook did not lay blame with any particular company or institution ー he mentioned "rogue" actors and "even governments" ー but he seemed to be referencing recent scandals at Facebook and Google.

Cook has a track record of advocating for privacy and has placed a major emphasis on protecting Apple customer data-ranging from a commitment to not making money from customer data, to refusing to help law enforcement agencies with unlocking iPhones.

Apple's chief executive also used his speech to broadly criticize fellow tech companies and their role in the current political climate.

"Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies".

In an impassioned speech about digital privacy at an worldwide data protection conference, Apple chief executive Tim Cook described the industrialisation of data as a billion-dollar industry with the power to "deepen divisions, incite violence" and "undermine our shared sense of what is true".

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, he said. While he agrees with what Tim Cook has said as a part of his privacy speech, he highlights that what Apple does in China can not be ignored as well.

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"These stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them", he added.

While Cook did not name specific companies, many saw his comments as being aimed at fellow tech giants Facebook and Google.

Tim Cook has spoken out against data collection policies widely used in the U.S., speaking specifically about Google's ad-targeting system and Facebook's user profile building algorithms.

The right to knowledge, where users know what data is collected and what is being collected for. Every day, we work to infuse the devices we make with the humanity that makes us.

Although Cook did not unpack what the potential dangers may be, big tech companies have come under fire for irresponsible use of artificially intelligent systems. One key theme of the speech was that the misuse of our personal information doesn't affect just individuals but whole sections of society. And he added, "We shouldn't sugarcoat the consequences". "This crisis is real. This is real. It is not imaginary or exaggerated or's potential for good must not shrink from this moment".

What do you think of Cook's call for a US version of the GDPR?

"It is time for the rest of the world... to follow your lead", Cook said. As the amount of data collected about everyone increases and the methods for creating sophisticated profiles of people with that data become more advanced, providing consumers with the tools to make informed decisions about what they share and control that data has become increasingly important.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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