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Tim Cook says 2019 is the year we do something about data privacy.
Image: ARIS OIKONOMOU/AFP/Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook is on a crusade to make tech companies care more about their users’ privacy.

In an op-ed for Time Magazine, Cook once again called for a sweeping change within the tech industry and how companies handle online data. The Apple CEO is pushing Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to step up and make the moves necessary to protect people’s privacy.

“In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours,” writes Cook. “Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.”

Cook urged that the data privacy issues plaguing Silicon Valley are not too difficult or far gone to fix. In his op-ed, Cook calls on Congress to pass “comprehensive federal privacy legislation.” The tenets of this legislation have been echoed by Cook before. Last year, while railing against the “data industrial complex,” the Apple CEO outlined “four essential rights” that he said should guide such legislation. He reiterates these rights in his Time piece.

“First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to strip identifying information from customer data or avoid collecting it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge—to know what data is being collected and why. Third, the right to access. Companies should make it easy for you to access, correct and delete your personal data. And fourth, the right to data security, without which trust is impossible.”

Cook also spoke out against “data brokers,” or companies that bundle users’ data and sell it without their explicit consent. The Apple CEO would like the FTC to “shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes.” To combat this practice, he calls for a “data-broker clearinghouse” to be set up. The clearinghouse would require registration for data brokers and allow users to track their data that’s been bundled and sold. Consumers would also be given the the ability to completely delete their data whenever they’d like.

Apple has long touted its company data privacy policies. The company’s name rarely comes up in the seemingly never ending stories on data breaches within the tech industry. 

Apple values its commitment to protecting customers’ data so much when compared to other tech companies that it promotes this as a feature. The iPhone maker surrounded this year’s CES with billboards promoting its privacy policy, effectively taunting its competitors who’ve been involved in data scandals in the past. Oddly enough, after a year where these scandals dominated the newscycle, Apple’s advertisements were responsible for keeping the privacy issue in the conversation at the biggest tech event of the year.

However, as Shira Ovide of Bloomberg points out, Apple has its own transgressions. For example, Google pays Apple billions of dollars to remain the default Safari search engine on iPhone. This enables Google to track and collect even more data on Apple’s own customers.

Nevertheless, Cook, himself, has been a long proponent of consumer protections when it comes to privacy and data. The Apple CEO has criticized Silicon Valley for its failure to effectively deal with these issues for years. Cook has specifically called out some of the biggest tech companies, like Google and Facebook, for collecting so much data on its users in the first place.

Last year, when Cook was asked what he would do if he was in Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s shoes following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the Apple CEO replied, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

“Technology has the potential to keep changing the world for the better, but it will never achieve that potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it,” writes Cook. It’s hard to disagree with that. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/apple-tim-cook-data-privacy-congress-ftc/

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