Thursday, 25 October 2018 05:31

Cook slams 'data industrial complex', says Apple backs federal privacy law Featured

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Apple backs the passage of a federal privacy law in the United States which should be based on four essential rights, the company's chief executive, Tim Cook, has told a privacy conference in Brussels.

Cook told the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners on Wednesday that firstly, people should have the right to have data collected about them minimised.

In what appeared to be a reference to companies like Google and Facebook, which trade on personal information, he slammed what he described as the "data industrial complex", accusing it of surveillance.

"Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponised against us with military efficiency," Cook said. And he added, "We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them."

He said each day, billions changed hands, and countless decisions were made, "on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, Our relationships and conversations… Our wishes and fears… Our hopes and dreams".

"These scraps of data… each one harmless enough on its own… are carefully assembled, synthesised, traded, and sold."

He said companies should challenge themselves to de-identify customer data — or not to collect it at all.

Users should also have the right to know what data was being collected and to what use it was being put, Cook argued. They should be allowed to access whatever data was collected and they should be assured that such data was held in a secure setup.

He praised the European Union for creating and putting in place the General Data Protection Regulation and outlined the ways Apple was looking after its users' privacy.

"Taken to its extreme, this [data collection] process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself," he pointed out.

"Your profile is then run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions. If green is your favourite colour, you may find yourself reading a lot of articles — or watching a lot of videos — about the insidious threat from people who like orange."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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