Tech

Apple CEO to warn Big Tech must keep users trust

Apples chief executive is expected to warn that technology companies must maintain the trust and confidence of their users if they want to achieve their true potential.

Speaking at a privacy conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Tim Cook also is expected say that privacy is a fundamental right — a key point in Europes beefed-up data protection standards — and to endorse renewed efforts in Washington to pass comprehensive U.S. federal privacy laws, according to prepared remarks seen by POLITICO.

“We will never achieve technologys true potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it,” the Apple chief executive is expected to say Wednesday. “We are optimistic about technologys awesome potential for good. But we know that it wont happen on its own.”

Cooks comments come as pressure grows on other Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook over how they collect, store and use peoples digital information, which includes everything from search queries to social media posts.

Both companies have suffered recent privacy scandals, including the alleged illegal sharing of data from up to 87 million Facebook users with Cambridge Analytica, a British data firm, that have pushed EU and U.S. lawmakers and regulators to take action against such mass collection of digital information. Britains privacy watchdog, for instance, recently fined Facebook £500,000 because of the Cambridge Analytica data leak.

Unlike those tech firms, Apple has sidestepped the public and regulatory backlash against Big Techs recent mishandling of peoples data because the iPhone makers business model is significantly different to those that rely on selling online advertising based on individuals digital habits. Apple generates almost all of its income from the selling of hardware like smartphones and laptops.

Cook — a longtime advocate of strong data protection standards — is expected to praise Europes new privacy laws, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, saying that they are an example of how “good policy and political will can come together to protect the rights of us all.”

Not all U.S. tech executives have been so complimentary.

While Mark Zuckerberg, Facebooks chief executive, initially claimed the social networking giant would impose Europes standards across its entire global platform, the companys executives have since rolled back on that statement, often questioning if the EUs approach is too burdensome, particularly for smaller companies.

“GDPR has gone as expected in significant ways, but needs clarifying in others,” said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, an industry group that represents many of Silicon Valleys biggest names.

Since Europes new privacy rules came into force in late May, the data protection fight has shifted toward Washington, where tech officials and privacy advocates are now vying over renewed efforts to pass nationwide data protection rules.

Previous attempts have fallen significantly short, but new privacy legislation recently passed in California — home to many of the worlds largest tech companies — has reignited a bitter lobbying battle on Capitol Hill over potential federal standards.

“For the first time in decades, technology companies have done a 180-degree turn,” said Alastair MacTaggart, the U.S. privacy campaigner who led the push for legislation in California. “A year ago, they were pushing for self-regulation. But now, they want federal rules, but ones that are as weak as possible.”

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