Apple CEO Tim Cook attacked what he described as the “data industrial complex” in Silicon Valley during his keynote speech at a privacy conference in Brussels, Belgium.
While giving the keynote speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) at the European Parliament’s Hemicycle in Brussels, Belgium, Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized what he referred to as the “data industrial complex,” that he believes digital data trading has evolved into. Cook did not specifically name Facebook and Google for their data collection and trading practices but it was clear who his targets were during the speech.
TechCrunch reports that Cook stated: “Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.” Cook continued to state: “Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm.”
Cook then made a bold claim about the nature of digital data collection: “We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance,” he stated. Cook later turned to the topic of artificial intelligence: “Artificial intelligence is one area I think a lot about,” he said, “At its core this technology promises to learn from people individually to benefit us all. But advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency,” Cook said.
“For artificial intelligence to be truly smart it must respect human values — including privacy. If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound. We can achieve both great artificial intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility — it is a responsibility.” Cook said that sense of responsibility is why Apple places great importance on human values within engineering.
Cook also praised Europe’s data protection laws, something which he was predicted to discuss yesterday: “We should celebrate the transformative work of the European institutions tasked with the successful implementation of the GDPR,” said Cook. “We also celebrate the new steps taken, not only here in Europe but around the world — in Singapore, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand. In many more nations regulators are asking tough questions — and crafting effective reform.”
We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. No matter what country you live in, that right should be protected in keeping with four essential principles:
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) October 24, 2018
“It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead,” Cook stated. He later stated that Apple is “in full support of a comprehensive, federal privacy law in the United States,” this statement reportedly resulted in a round of applause from the crowd.
Cook took aim at tech companies that may attempt to fight privacy regulation saying: “They may say to you our companies can never achieve technology’s true potential if there were strengthened privacy regulations. But this notion isn’t just wrong it is destructive — technology’s potential is and always must be rooted in the faith people have in it. In the optimism and the creativity that stirs the hearts of individuals. In its promise and capacity to make the world a better place.”
“It’s time to face facts,” Cook stated. “We will never achieve technology’s true potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.”