BRUSSELS—In his strongest comments to date on data privacy, Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday said the company supports a national U.S. data protection law that mirrors Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). He also slammed companies that profited from people’s data while unleashing powerful, negative forces, including manipulating voter sentiment and inciting violence.
Speaking at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, Cook told attendees that “platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies,” referencing the Myanmar government’s alleged campaign to incite violence against Rohingya Muslims via social media platforms.
Cook said that while “privacy is a fundamental human right, the desire to put profits over privacy is nothing new,” adding “our information ... is being weaponised against us with military efficiency.”
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them,” Cook said.
“Advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency. We can achieve both great AI and great privacy standards. It is not just a possibility—it is a responsibility.”
Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer, Apple
The CEO also congratulated the European Union, Singapore, Japan, Brazil, and New Zealand for crafting more rigorous and effective data privacy legislation and advised the United States to follow suit, asserting Apple “fully supports” a comprehensive federal privacy law rooted in the following four “essential rights”:
The right to have personal data “minimised,” with the idea that companies challenge themselves as to whether they actually need the information in the first place;
The right to knowledge. Users should know what data is being collected and why;
The right to access. Companies must recognise that data belongs to users; and
The right to security.
Cook said that arguments to suggest privacy legislation will hinder technology innovation are “not just wrong,” but “destructive.”
He also took a swipe at developers and companies that use artificial intelligence purely as a way to gather even more data, rather than use it judiciously and effectively.
“Advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency,” said Cook. “We can achieve both great AI and great privacy standards. It is not just a possibility—it is a responsibility.”