"The individual should own their data. And they should own the ability to say who gets it and what of their data they get and what they use it for. And frankly, that’s not the situation of today," Cook said in an interview with New York Times journalist Kara Swisher.
Cook stressed that privacy is a basic human right that other rights are built off of, so it is crucial that an individual gets to decide what happens to their data.
"Generally speaking, I think privacy is one of the top issues of the 21st century. And I think we’re in a crisis," the Apple CEO said.
He emphasized that collecting personal data and tracking people without them being aware of it is not necessary for effective digital advertising.
"If you think about a surveillance world, a world where you know somebody is always watching everything you’re doing — and in the case of a phone or a computer, it’s also what you’re thinking, because you’re typing in searches and so on and so forth. And so I think in that kind of world, you begin to do less. You begin to think less. Your freedom of expression begins to narrow. And the walls move in on you. And I start thinking about that at its natural endpoint. And I don’t want to be a part of that society," Cook said.
He told Kara Swisher that Apple is working on a new update called App Tracking Transparency that is expected to come out within a few weeks.
"We’ve got things coming out like a privacy nutrition label. Privacy policies have become these multi-page things that people just blindly say, I agree, so that they can go to the next screen and move on. A privacy nutrition label, much like a nutrition label on food, gives you at a glance some key information. We’ll improve that over time," Cook said.
At the end of March, a coalition of organizations across the privacy, antitrust, consumer protection and civil rights spaces called for a ban on the so-called "surveillance advertising", which relies on mass tracking and profiling of web users.
The coalition pointed out that there are less toxic non-tracking advertising alternatives, such as contextual ads, and accused Big Tech platforms of intentionally feeding users increasingly extreme content as it generates the most profit.