Apple CEO Tim Cook today warned of the rise of a “data industrial complex” in which deeply personal information online “is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.”
Speaking at a conference on privacy in Brussels, Cook said: “Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies. Rogue actors and even governments have taken advantage of user trust to deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense of what is true and what is false.”
Cook said scraps of personal online data are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.
“Taken to its extreme, this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions. If green is your favorite color, you may find yourself reading a lot of articles, or watching a lot of video about the insidious threat from people who like orange,” said Cook, according to the transcript of his speech.
To Cook, the process is surveillance and the “stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them.”
The Apple CEO praised Europe for the implementation of GDPR, and other countries where regulators are asking tough questions and crafting reforms.
He said Apple supports a comprehensive federal privacy law based on the user right to have personal data minimized, know where data is collected and how it is used, access to collected data and ability to correct/delete information, and security.
Cook believes the rise of artificial intelligence highlights the need to strengthen safeguards for personal data.
“AI technology promises to learn from people individually to benefit us all. Yet advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency. For artificial intelligence to be truly smart, it must respect human values, including privacy,” he said.
In pursuit of AI, Cook said technology companies should not “sacrifice the humanity, creativity and ingenuity that define our human intelligence."