Wednesday 16 January 2019

Apple boss takes aim at 'weaponisation' of customer data

 

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers a keynote during the European Union's privacy conference in Brussels. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers a keynote during the European Union's privacy conference in Brussels. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters

Andrew Griffin

Apple boss Tim Cook says that people's personal data is being "weaponised with military efficiency" by companies who are using it to make profit for themselves.

Mr Cook and the rest of Apple have repeatedly argued some parts of the technology industry are abusing the trust of its users by taking intimate data from them and using it to make money. But the latest comments at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels are perhaps the strongest attack yet.

Mr Cook said there should be a US federal law that stops data being abused, promoted Apple's own commitment to privacy, and praised the new General Data Protection Regulation rules that are meant to protect data in Europe.

Issues over how data is used and how consumers can protect their personal information are under the spotlight after major breaches of data privacy involving millions of internet and social media users.

"The desire to put profits over privacy is nothing new," Mr Cook said.

He cited former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who in a 'Harvard Law Review' article in 1890 warned gossip was no longer the resource of the idle and the vicious but had become a trade.

"Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponised against us with military efficiency," said Mr Cook.

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

Algorithms were turning 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," Mr Cook said.

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