Apple chief Tim Cook has warned that some companies have “weaponized” user data in an effort to increase their profits.
Cook made the statement Wednesday in a speech to an international conference on data privacy in Brussels, Belgium. Technology industry representatives and privacy officials from more than 70 countries attended the gathering.
Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union, or EU, which launched a strong new data privacy law in May. Cook said the EU law is an example of how officials in many areas are “asking tough questions” about data privacy issues.
Cook said Apple fully supports proposals for a new federal law in the U.S. to protect users’ data and privacy. “It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead,” Cook said.
Calls for new U.S. laws to protect user data have increased since major data breaches have been reported. They have affected millions of internet and social media users across the United States and Europe.
Unlike Google and Facebook, Apple has avoided major data release mistakes and strong criticism of its privacy policies. Apple makes most of its money by selling iPhones and other devices instead of making money from users’ data through advertising.
Cook said technology companies are continuing to create new inventions to aid humanity. However, this comes with increased risks for misuse of personal information.
Cook said the trade in personal information “has exploded” into a major money-making operation. “Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” he said.
Cook said he considers the collection of personal information by companies a form of “surveillance.” Such data serves “only to enrich the companies that collect them.” He said people should be concerned.
Cook’s speech came a week after Apple launched expanded privacy protection measures for people in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The measures permit users to learn about and capture all personal data held by Apple. The changes took effect earlier in Europe and Apple plans to expand them worldwide in the future.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google chief Sundar Pichai did not attend the Brussels event. But both sent their own video messages.
Zuckerberg said Facebook takes seriously its “basic ethical responsibility” to safeguard personal information. But he added that “the past year has shown we have a lot more work to do.”
Both Zuckerberg and Pichai said they supported new privacy protection laws. Pichai noted that Google recently proposed measures that would build on the EU’s new privacy measures.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press and Reuters. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
data – n. information or facts about something
breach – n. action that breaks a rule, agreement, or law
efficiency – n. good use of time or resources without wasting them
surveillance – n. the careful watching of something or someone, especially by police or the government
enrich – v. to improve the quality of something by adding to it
ethical – n. relating to what is right or wrong