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Apple CEO Tim Cook Makes Strong Case for Data Privacy Laws

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Oct 24, 2018, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @zeman_e

Addressing attendees at a privacy conference in Brussels, Apple CEO Tim Cook said new, national privacy laws are needed to govern how personal data is collected and used by big companies. Apple has prided itself on doing what it can to safeguard customer privacy, and even went head-to-head with the FBI when it refused to unlock a customer's iPhone. Cook drew on the fallout of major security lapses that have taken place over the last few years as evidence that new action is required. "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," argued Cook. "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." Threats come from every angle. Phone makers, wireless service providers, email providers, social networks, gaming communities, and other organizations have suffered breaches in recent years exposing the data of hundreds of millions of consumers. "Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies. Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence, and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false. This crisis is real. It is not imagined, or exaggerated, or crazy. We shouldn't sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance." Cook's audience was made mostly of European officials and he complemented the European Union for its recent success in implementing the GDPR privacy law. It's not clear what impact Cook's words will have on U.S. lawmakers.

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