Apple's Tim Cook wants a federal law to regulate privacy in the U.S.

Speaking at a conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, the CEO praised Europe's progress for implementing a privacy law known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and said the U.S. should follow its lead, adding that Apple is fully supportive of enacting similar legislation in America. In prepared remarks, Cook delivered one of his stringiest criticisms about technology's role in society. He referred to tech companies' mass collection of personal information as "surveillance" and called out the companies that make money by selling it, alluding to Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data scandal without naming the company. 

"Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency," Cook said. "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."

While the U.S. doesn't have a federal privacy law--except for data related to personal health records--each state has the power to enact its own legislation. California, for example, recently passed a wide-ranging privacy law that compels companies to inform customers about what information is collected and why. It also bars businesses from selling data about kids younger than 16 years old without consent.

Unlike Google or Facebook, which make money by selling advertisements, Apple's main source of revenue comes from its hardware products and subscription services like Apple Music. The company has long advocated that privacy is a human right and refused to weaken its iPhones' security measures even at the behest of the federal government. The introduction of a federal privacy law is likely to have less impact on Apple's bottom line than it would for Google, Amazon, and Facebook. 

"Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies," Cook said. "Now, more than ever--as leaders of governments, as decision makers in business, and as citizens--we must ask ourselves a fundamental question: What kind of world do we want to live in?"

Published on: Oct 24, 2018