Apple CEO Tim Cook Talks the Talk, But Does He Walk the Walk?

Apple CEO and long-time data privacy advocate Tim Cook issued a rousing call for new digital privacy laws in the US. At an October privacy conference in Brussels, Cook cautioned that modern technology has resulted in a “data-industrial complex” where personal information is “weaponized against us with military efficiency.” 

“Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies,” Cook said. “Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false. This crisis is real. It is not imagined, or exaggerated, or crazy.”

For any brand who relies on programatic advertising in order to micro-target its customers, the enforcements of a US GDPR is looming and should be a wake-up call. For stateside brands, the reforms abroad should be understood as an indicator of what’s to come.

Cook’s speech was calculated and on-brand, serving as a reminder that Apple has long positioned itself as an advocate of data privacy — the company famously refused to unlock phones for the CIA following the San Bernardino shooting.

“Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” said Cook. “These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.”

Cook later proposed a series of rights, similar to those found in GDPR, for the U.S. to enact “a comprehensive federal privacy law” that focuses on four key tenets:

The right to have personal data minimized. “Companies should challenge themselves to de-identify customer data—or not to collect it in the first place,” Cook said.

The right to knowledge. “Users should always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for,” he continued. “This is the only way to empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t. Anything less is a sham.”

The right to access. “Companies should recognize that data belongs to users, and we should all make it easy for users to get a copy of, correct and delete their personal data,” Cook stated. 

The right to security. “Security is foundational to trust and to all other privacy rights.” 

Cook praised Europe’s “successful implementation” of GDPR, and said that “It is time for the rest of the world … to follow your lead. We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.”

It’s clear that Tim Cook is willing to walk the walk, but former Facebook CISO doesn’t have the brightest opinion of the Apple CEO. Take a look at this thoughts posted to Twitter and let me know what you think (shoot me an email [email protected]) about his tweet storm: 

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