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    Apple’s Tim Cook Says Personal Data 'Weaponized with Military Efficiency'

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    Speaking at a privacy conference in Brussels, Apple’s CEO praised the effectiveness of the EU’s personal data legislation - GDPR - and urged companies back home not to fear stricter regulation regarding their customers’ personal data and privacy.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken against the practice of personal data collection, utilized by internet giants such as Facebook and Google, under the pretext of better advertisement targeting.

    "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," Cook said, speaking at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) in Brussels Wednesday.

    "These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded, and sold," he added. "Your profile is then run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions."

    While Cook did not name the companies who collect and analyze personal data on the biggest scale, he did call them a "data industrial complex." 

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

    The two companies — Facebook and Google's parent Alphabet Inc. — have recently been entangled in major scandals regarding personal data collection. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to testify before the US Congress over the Cambridge Analytica personal data misuse scandal earlier this April, while an unreported bug in Google's Android operational system allowed third parties to access personal data for years before it was shut down.

    "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 said. "This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us."

    Earlier this year, the European Union introduced legislation called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to give back control to consumers over what data they want shared via the Internet.

    Speaking in Brussels, Cook lauded the introduction of this law, and indirectly urged US companies not to fear future government steps for stricter regulation of privacy.

    "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 said.

    "We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States. There, and everywhere, it should be rooted in four essential rights," Cook said. Those rights, according to the CEO, are: the right to have personal data minimized; the right to know what data is being collected; the right to access and edit personal data before it is being shared; and the right to enjoy security.

    Apple has made personal data security one of their advertisement strong points, going as far as refusing to unlock a San Bernardino shooter's iPhone at the request of the FBI.

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    Tags:
    personal data, security, privacy, EU, Google, Apple, Facebook, Tim Cook, Brussels
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