Tim Cook wants U.S. to adopt tougher, EU-style data privacy regulations

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There are lots of things that make Apple so great, Cook says.
Tim Cook is no fan of tech giants which hoover up user data.
Photo: Apple

Tim Cook has upped the ante in the privacy conversation by calling for the United States to adopt “comprehensive” privacy laws similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

GDPR is a unifying regulation concerning data protection and privacy for individuals in the European Union and European Economic Area. It was introduced in May 2018, tightening up on Europe’s already strict data regulations. Now Cook wants to bring it to the U.S.

Update: Video of Tim Cook’s speech added.

In a speech in Brussels on Wednesday, Cook said that it is “time for the rest of the world” to follow a similar framework which protects the personal information of users. “We are in support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the U.S.,” he told delegates at the European Parliament.

Cook went on to describe the threat of tech giants which, “know you better than you know yourselves” due to their data mining. “This is surveillance, and these stock piles of personal data only enrich the companies that collect them,” he said. “This should make us uncomfortable and unsettle us.”

Under GDPR laws, companies which are found to be in violation of the rules can be fined as much as 20 million euros ($22.8 million) or 4 percent of their annual revenue.

Tim Cook’s fight for user privacy

Tim Cook has long spoken out about data harvesting and the right to privacy. He has done this in terms that haven’t always endeared him to other Silicon Valley giants.

For instance, during a 2015 speech to nonprofit research firm Electronic Privacy Information Center, Cook said that, “some of the most prominent and successful [tech] companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

When the new GDPR laws came into effect, Apple made it easy for customers to download all the data that Apple has on them.

While there’s no reason to doubt Cook’s personal belief in the importance of data privacy, GDPR-style laws would certainly hurt some of Apple’s contemporaries and rivals. Companies like Facebook and Google have built much of their value on user data, which would be harder (though not impossible) to secure in the event that laws like this were to be introduced.

Source: Financial Times