Tim Cook praises GDPR, warns about "weaponised data"

Tim Cook CEO of Apple Inc talks at the Debating Ethics

Apple chief Tim Cook gives a speech to privacy commissioners in Brussels Credit AFP

Users should be able to easily know what data is being collected and why.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called for the U.S.to enact tougher privacy laws similar to Europe's GDRP Wednesday, and warned against negative consequences of tech companies collecting huge amounts of data for their artificial intelligence efforts. Cook notes that "our own information-from the everyday to the deeply personal-is being weaponized against us with military efficiency", referring to the practice of data collection as "surveillance".

"These stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them", he added.

"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", he said.

In the first big test of the new rules, Ireland's data protection commission, which is a lead authority for Europe as many big tech firms are based in the country, is investigating Facebook's data breach, which let hackers access 3 million European Union accounts.

The third is the "right to access", he said, emphasizing that companies "should recognize that data belongs to users, and we should all make it easy for users" to access their data and choose to delete data.

The boss of the most valuable tech company in the world praised the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and said that the United States should follow the EU's example.

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He also lamented an emerging "data industrial complex" - a play on a 1960s-era criticism of defense contractors that was popularized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower - that allows companies to "know you better than you may know yourself".

Apple's outlines just how little access anyone but you has over the data on your Apple products. "This crisis is real". Apple makes most of its money by selling iPhones and other devices instead of making money from users' data through advertising.

Cook recalled how, in the early days of Apple, the company came under "enormous pressure" to "bend our values" on privacy issues.

Issues over how data is used and how consumers can protect their personal information are under the spotlight after big breaches of data privacy involving millions of internet and social media users in Europe and the United States. "And those of us who believe in technology's potential for good must not shrink from this moment", he added.

This sense of not doing enough for the sake of privacy was set up prior to Cook's keynote by the EU's data protection supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, who challenged the idea that we might seek technological progression at the expense of human decency.

Cook took aim at tech companies that may attempt to fight privacy regulation saying: "They may say to you our companies can never achieve technology's true potential if there were strengthened privacy regulations".

Facebook and Google say they collect our data to improve their services, but Tim Cook isn't buying it.

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