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Apple CEO Calls for Sweeping U.S. Privacy Legislation

From Tim Cook's remarks at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners this morning:

[...] We see vividly--painfully--how technology can harm rather than help. 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." And those of us who believe in technology's potential for good must not shrink from this moment.

He goes on to assert in strong terms that privacy is a human right, which is a position we are all going to have to fight for in the coming years.

These are scary times indeed, but I do see one tiny, positive sign: that with each passing day, it seems we are getting farther away from the sad notion that people who are concerned about privacy are just kooks wearing homemade metal hats. We will never be able to make progress while the very idea of progress itself is vilified and mocked. While it would be preferable if these remarks were those of some fictional competent political leader, it can't be denied that Apple has a great deal of influence on individuals' data privacy simply because of their massive imprint on the digital world. It's great to see these sentiments coming from a position of (some) power.

As a footnote, I'll mention that former Facebook CISO Alex Stamos has called out Apple's willingness to work with the Chinese government and honor their repressive data-handling policies. I'm a bit torn on how I feel about whether Tim Cook is being a hypocrite or not when it comes to China. Obeying a law does not necessarily imply moral approval of that law. I am a staunch pacifist, but I do recognize that I have to pay my taxes, thereby directly funding countless violent horrors.

It would be a greater world, of course, if massive corporations operated based entirely on moral goals rather than financial ones, but that's not the world we live in. Would it be better for Chinese citizens if phones made by Huawei or ZTE were the only ones avilable?