Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. (Photo: Apple)

Cook Calls for Greater Data Privacy Protections in the Law

Some of you can recall when President Eisenhower gave his famous line of warning, saying ” beware the military industrial complex.” One of today’s tech industries leaders has taken the phrase and updated it to the “data industrial complex.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking to an international privacy conference Wednesday said he supported the European Union’s data privacy law, enacted in May, and called for the U.S. to pass similar protections, according to a story by Mike Snyder in USA Today:

The need for consumer protections is important because technological advances have led to the development of “a data industrial complex,” Cook said. “Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.”

Cook spoke Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, at the annual International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. Among the major topics: potential benefits and repercussions of the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, enacted in May by the EU, which is meant to give consumers more control over their personal information that’s collected by tech companies. The U.S. should follow the EU’s lead because, Cook said, “These scraps of data…each one harmless enough on its own…are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded, and sold.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google head Sundar Pichai also both said they supported regulation in brief video remarks to the conference, with Pichai noting Google recently proposed a legislative framework that would build on GDPR and extend many of its principles to users globally. Zuckerberg said Facebook takes seriously its “basic ethical responsibility” to safeguard personal information but added that “the past year has shown we have a lot more work to do,” referring to a big data breach and the scandal over the misuse of data by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Cook and Apple have sought to differentiate the iPhone maker’s approach from that of other tech giants such as Google and Facebook, which rely on revenue from ads based on user data. The company last week unveiled a new privacy portal giving Apple users a way to see what data the company collects on them and the ability to delete if, if they wish. Users in Europe had access to those features upon GDPR’s implementation.