Apple CEO Tim Cook this morning has penned a column in TIME Magazine in which he calls for the U.S. Congress to pass “comprehensive federal privacy legislation.” Cook says that in 2019, it’s time for everyone to “stand up for the right to privacy.”
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The essay comes following Cook’s numerous calls for improved privacy regulations in the technology industry. Cook has been an outspoken opponent to companies that build “profiles” of data on users, and today’s opinion piece takes things a step farther.
In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours. 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.
Despite the scale of the problem, however, Cook believes that it “isn’t too big, too challenging or too late” for it to be solved. The Apple CEO calls for a “landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer.”
Cook points to four principles that he believes should guide this legislation, referencing the comments he made last year at a privacy event in Brussels.
First, Cook says that consumers have the right to have their “personal data minimized.” He calls on companies to “strip identifying information from customer data,” and if that’s not possible, “avoid collecting it in the first place.” This is a clear reference to Apple’s differential privacy practice.
Cook also says users have the “right to knowledge, the right to access, and the right to data security.”
The biggest challenge currently facing privacy protection, Cook writes, is that violations made by certain companies are “invisible.”
One of the biggest challenges in protecting privacy is that many of the violations are invisible. For example, you might have bought a product from an online retailer—something most of us have done. But what the retailer doesn’t tell you is that it then turned around and sold or transferred information about your purchase to a “data broker”—a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and sell it to yet another buyer.
Most notably, Cook says that the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse. This would allow users to track where and how their data is being used and sold:
That’s why we believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.
Ultimately, Cook says that comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only put users in control of their data but also “shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes.” The full piece can be read on the TIME Magazine website.