Apple’s Cook blasts data industrial complex: ‘We shouldn’t sugarcoat . . . this is surveillance’

by WorldTribune Staff, October 24, 2018

In the “data industrial complex” of the 21st Century, “we see vividly, painfully how technology can harm, rather than help,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said, adding that platforms can “magnify our worst human tendencies… deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense or what is true or false.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the European Union’s privacy conference at the EU Parliament in Brussels on Oct. 24. / Reuters

In the keynote address at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) in Brussels on Oct. 24, Cook said “Our own information – from the everyday to the deeply personal – is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.”

Cook continued: “Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm.

“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance.”

Cook argued for U.S. privacy laws to prioritize four things:

  • Data minimization: “The right to have personal data minimized.” Companies should “challenge themselves” to de-identify customer data or not collect it in the first place.
  • Transparency: “The right to knowledge.” Users should “always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for,” it’s the only way to “empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t. Anything less is a shame.”
  • The right to access: Companies should recognize that “data belongs to users,” and it should be made easy for users to get a copy of, correct and delete their personal data.
  • The right to security: “Security is foundational to trust and all other privacy rights.”

“This crisis is real,” Cook said. “Those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not shrink from this moment.”

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