“We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. No matter what country you live in, that right should be protected in keeping with four key principles” said Tim Cook at the
Opening the conference before the Apple CEO took to the stage, Europe’s data protection supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli argued that digitization is driving a new generational shift in the respect for privacy — saying there is an urgent need for regulators and indeed societies to agree on and establish “a sustainable ethics for a digitized society”.
US privacy law to prioritize four things:
- Data minimization — “the right to have personal data minimized”, saying companies should “challenge themselves” to de-identify customer data or not collect it in the first place
- Transparency — “the right to knowledge”, saying users should “always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for, saying it’s the only way to “empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t”. “Anything less is a shame,” he added
- The right to access — saying companies should recognize that “data belongs to users”, and it should be made easy for users to get a copy of, correct and delete their personal data
- The right to security — saying “security is foundational to trust and all other privacy rights”
“We see vividly, painfully how technology can harm, rather than help,” he continued, arguing that platforms can “magnify our worst human tendencies… deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense or what is true or false”.
“This crisis is real. Those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not shrink from this moment”, he added, saying the company hopes “to work with you as partners”, and that: “Our missions are closely aligned.”
He also made a sideswipe at tech industry efforts to defang privacy laws — saying that some companies will “endorse reform in public and then resist and undermine it behind closed doors”.
“They may say to you our companies can never achieve technology’s true potential if there were strengthened privacy regulations. But this notion isn’t just wrong it is destructive — technology’s potential is and always must be rooted in the faith people have in it. In the optimism and the creativity that stirs the hearts of individuals. In its promise and capacity to make the world a better place.”
“It’s time to face facts,” Cook added. “We will never achieve technology’s true potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.”
“The so-called ‘privacy paradox’ is not that people have conflicting desires to hide and to expose. The paradox is that we have not yet learned how to navigate the new possibilities and vulnerabilities opened up by rapid digitization,” Buttarelli argued.
“To cultivate a sustainable digital ethics, we need to look, objectively, at how those technologies have affected people in good ways and bad; We need a critical understanding of the ethics informing decisions by companies, governments and regulators whenever they develop and deploy new technologies.”
“Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” warned Cook. “These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.
“Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm.”
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance,” Cook added.