Earlier today, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection conference as today is Data Privacy Day. Following the keynote, Cook also talked about Apple’s commitment to privacy and about the role of technology in igniting extremism in an interview with Fast Company.
Cook said privacy has become as much of a concern as climate change, as both things will have a profound impact on future generations. Apple’s CEO told the report that he’s concerned about threats to weaken end-to-end encryption, arguing that products and services shouldn’t have any kind back doors.
Speaking about the new App Tracking Transparency feature and App Store privacy labels, Cook mentioned that while some people may not admit that they have concerns about privacy, sometimes they may “self-censor themselves” because they know they’re being monitored by other companies.
“I try to get somebody to think about what happens in a world where you know that you’re being surveilled all the time,” he says. “What changes do you then make in your own behavior? What do you do less of? What do you not do anymore? What are you not as curious about anymore if you know that each time you’re on the web, looking at different things, exploring different things, you’re going to wind up constricting yourself more and more and more and more? That kind of world is not a world that any of us should aspire to.”
When asked about Big Tech companies being “increasingly demonized” in part because of privacy concerns, Tim Cook cautioned about the use of the term “Big Tech” as he believes each company has its own values, so no one should assume these companies have everything in common — as a way to exclude Apple from the accusations that other companies like Facebook and Google have been facing.
“I think it’s important for people not to categorize ‘Big Tech’ in a way that would make people view it to be monolithic, because I think the companies are actually quite different compared to one another,” he tells me. “And so I worry about that broad, broad-brush categorization from the get-go. I try to encourage people to think a level deeper than that and think about the companies themselves and their business models and how they conduct themselves, and so on and so forth—what their values are. That’s kind of the way I look at it.”
Regarding the discussions about extremist ideologies being propagated on the internet, he pointed out that technology “can be used to amplify, can be used to organize, and it can be used to try to manipulate people’s own thinking,” suggesting that tech companies must be aware and understand what’s happening “to figure out how are we going to not have it happen again.”
During the interview, Tim Cook also endorsed the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and said that “it should be the law around the world.” Cook admitted that he doesn’t like regulations since they can have bad consequences, but at the same time, he believes that governments around the world should come together and stand for data privacy.
You can read the full report on the Fast Company website.
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