Apple’s Tim Cook calls for curb on personal data dissemination

Written by Martin Banks on 25 October 2018 in News

Apple boss Tim Cook has delivered a strongly-worded speech defending user privacy rights.

Photo credit: Press Association

Apple CEO Tim Cook has demanded efforts be made to tackle a “crisis” of public trust in technology.

Speaking in the European Parliament on Wednesday, Cook also called for the introduction of “comprehensive” federal privacy laws in the United States.

This, he told a 250-strong audience, should include an individual’s right for the dissemination of their personal data to be “minimised.”


“We are living in transformative times, including the right to access personal data. At the same time, we are seeing, on a daily basis, how technology can harm as well as help.”

“Technology can magnify the worst human tendencies with rogue actors and even governments taking advantage of increasing access to personal data to incite violence,” Cook said, adding that deeply personal data was being "weaponised against us with military efficiency.”

Cook, a keynote speaker on the opening day of a major conference on data protection, said during a session on privacy that while technology has an enormous potential for doing great things, it can also be a force for “great harm.”

“There is a crisis of public faith in technology and the crisis is not imagined or crazy – it is real. Privacy should be a fundamental right but, too often, too many people do not see it that way. There is a desire to put profit over privacy.”

“Every day we see billions of scraps of personal data, which on their own are harmless, being traded and sold. It means that companies often know more about an individual than they know about themselves”

“Every day we see billions of scraps of personal data, which on their own are harmless, being traded and sold. It means that companies often know more about an individual than they know about themselves.”

“Let’s not try to sugar coat this: this is surveillance – the stockpiling of personal data which serves only to enrich those companies who seek such information. This is very unsettling and should make us all uncomfortable. Technology has to be rooted in the faith people have in it. We have to face facts: the potential of new technology will not be fulfilled without the full faith of the people who use it.”


Cook recalled how, in the early days of Apple, the company came under “enormous pressure” to “bend our values” on privacy issues.

He went on to praise the EU for being a “world leader” in the protection of personal data, citing the “successful” implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as an example of such efforts.

GDPR is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years and came into force in May this year. GDPR places stricter rules on how personal data is handled by businesses and organisations.

Cook, who made no reference to his company’s recent well-publicised tax issues with the European Commission, said, “It is now time for the rest of the world, including my own country, the United States, to follow the EU’s lead.”

Apple has long been committed to privacy protection.

The firm was famously locked in a dispute with the FBI over the fact that it would not help the Bureau access data on the phone of a dead gunman who was involved in the San Bernardino shooting in 2015.

Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, chief executives of Facebook and Google, will also appear at the conference later this week in the form of pre-recorded video messages.

The conference was opened by the European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, who warned of the potential threat of interference in upcoming European and presidential elections in 13 member states.

“Never before has our democracy been so dependent on trust and personal privacy,” he told the delegates, who came from over 70 countries.

Another speaker, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, spoke on the issue of ethics and the internet.

“Privacy is a core right but the Cambridge Analytica case highlighted how some try to manipulate and misuse personal data,” Berners-Lee said.

The conference, “Debating Ethnics”, concludes on Thursday.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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