Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling for the U.S. and countries around the world to enhance their privacy protections for consumers, warning that failing to do so could prove destructive.
“Today [the private information] trade has exploded into a data industrial complex. Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” Cook said at a conference in Brussels on data privacy Wednesday.
While lauding countries such as those in the European Union for implementing stricter privacy regulation throughout recent years – including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – Cook specifically called out the U.S. for not doing enough. He said Apple supports the implementation of comprehensive federal privacy laws across the globe that minimize data collection, let users know what data is being collected, allow users to access that data and keep all of their information secure.
Cook went on to say that opposing privacy regulation “isn’t just wrong, it is destructive.”
As companies collect more and more data, he warns, businesses may have a fuller profile of an individual than the individual even has of herself.
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance,” he said. “This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”
This year, technology companies have come under scrutiny for failing to safeguard users. Earlier this year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were called to testify on Capitol Hill regarding ways they planned to secure their platforms against rogue actors attempting to unduly influence users – particularly ahead of the midterm elections. It was revealed that a collection of Russian hackers gained access to Facebook’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.
Further, more than 80 million Facebook users were notified earlier this year that their data was wrongly accessed by Cambridge Analytica.
While Cook did not mention any of his Silicon Valley rivals by name, he noted many in the tech world would say stricter privacy regulation would prevent businesses from reaching their true potential.
In California, lawmakers are looking to advance data regulations similar to the GDPR in the European Union by 2020. The GDPR is an effort to transfer more control over personal data, like addresses and phone numbers, from large companies back to individuals, affecting how companies obtain, use, store and secure data.
Executives from Google and Facebook were set to address the same conference in Brussels later on Wednesday. When contacted by FOX Business, Google pointed to a blog post on privacy published last month.
Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said at the conference she would also support legislation similar to the GDPR, as reported by The FInancial Times. A spokesperson for the company reiterated Egan's sentiments that she supports "strong and effective privacy legislation."