Federal lawmakers should pass privacy legislation that would give consumers a new set of rights, including the right to “have personal data minimized,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said today at a privacy conference in Brussels.
"We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States," Cook said. He went on to propose four “essential rights” for consumers, including the rights to data minimization and the right to access data collected about them.
In a 22-minute speech, Cook criticized the “data industrial complex,” stating that personal information "is being weaponized against us with military efficiency."
Other tech companies have recently called for federal privacy legislation, but many of them appear to be seeking a national law in order to override a tough new statute in California. That measure, slated to take effect in 2020, allows consumers to learn what personal information about them is held by businesses, and to opt out of the sale of that information. Many of the industry groups to weigh on in privacy legislation this year have argued that companies should have to follow stricter standards before collecting or using “sensitive” data -- like medical information -- than “non-sensitive” data.
Cook appears to be calling for broader privacy protections than some of the other industry groups to weigh in on the issue.
“Every day, billions of dollars change hands and countless decisions are made on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, our relationships and conversations, our wishes and fears, our hopes and dreams. These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold,” he said. “Taken to its extreme, this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. ... If green is your favorite color, you may find yourself reading a lot of articles -- or watching a lot of videos -- about the insidious threat from people who like orange.”
Apple recently beefed up the privacy settings in its own products. The Safari browser has long blocked cookies set by ad networks and other third parties by default. Last year, Apple added new settings aimed at preventing tracking by companies that use first-party cookies to get around the block on cookies set by third parties.
Apple also recently announced plans to make it harder for companies to use digital fingerprinting techniques to track people. Companies that use digital fingerprinting techniques attempt to recognize users based on data about their devices such as browser versions, installed fonts, plug-ins and other characteristics. Apple said it will hinder that technique by limiting the amount of data it sends to websites about users' devices.