3 min read

Apple CEO Tim Cook, advocates data privacy, considers it as a fundamental human right representing ideas of the company. Closely after, ex-Facebook security chief calls him out on his speech over a series of Tweets.

Cook on privacy

Cook spoke during a keynote speech during the ongoing International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) conference in Brussels, Belgium. He expressed his ideas of data privacy and praised the successful implementation of the GDPR policy of EU. The Apple CEO is in full support of a policy like GDPR coming into the US.

We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.

There are four essentials to such a law, he said:


  • The right to have personal data minimized
  • The right to knowledge
  • The right to access
  • The right to security

He talked about how data collection has become sort of a trade and: “Today that trade has exploded into a data industrial complex. Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.

Cook did not explicitly mention any companies in his speech but it was likely that he was referring to the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal and Google being fined for privacy in the EU. There was also a Senate hearing recently on consumer data privacy.

Cook added, “In the news almost every day, we bear witness to the harmful, even deadly, effects of these narrowed worldviews. We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them.

Cook on artificial intelligence

Cook believes that for artificial intelligence to be truly smart it should respect human values which include privacy. He went on to say that achieving great artificial intelligence systems with great privacy standards is not just a possibility but a responsibility. He believes that we should not lose “humanity” in pursuit of artificial intelligence.

He states: “For artificial intelligence to be truly smart, it must respect human values, including privacy.

Now how a system that makes decisions heavily based on data without using people’s data or obscure it to say the least is something to think about.

Ex Facebook security chief on Cook’s speech

Alex Stamos, ex Facebook security chief and a current adjunct professor said that he agrees with almost everything Cook had to say. On Twitter, Stamos mentioned Apple blocking the download of VPNs and the use of encrypted messaging apps in China. This could have given the Chinese citizens a way to connect to the internet and send private messages.

Also, data on iCloud is supposed to be end-to-end encrypted. But Apple’s Chinese partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data  stores iCloud data on Chinese government run servers. This gives them a possibility to access user data.

He tweeted: “We don’t want the media to create an incentive structure that ignores treating Chinese citizens as less-deserving of privacy protections because a CEO is willing to bad-mouth the business model of their primary competitor, who uses advertising to subsidize cheaper devices.

Now if data can really be weaponized against is a question of who has control over it. On a purely objective view yes it can be. But it is the responsibility of these tech giants collecting, using and controlling that data to use it responsibly, to keep it safe. It is understandable that a free to use model works on user data but the companies should respect that data and the people from whom they collect it. There are also some efforts towards mobile OSes that promote privacy.

In a world where everything is online, what we share, creating profiles with personal details, using free services in exchange for our own data, complete privacy seems like a luxury.

Read next

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