Apple chief executive Tim Cook has taken aim at the "surveillance" practices of tech rivals like Facebook and Google, saying that mass data collection means information is being "weaponised against [people] with military efficiency".
During a speech to privacy officials in Brussels on Wednesday (25 October) Cook extolled the importance of legislation to protect individual rights. His comments come against the backdrop of Europe's implementation of stricter data protection rules like GDPR and the forthcoming e-privacy directive.
"We see painfully how technology can harm, rather than help," Cook said, adding: "Platforms and algorithms that promise to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies."
On data collection, he noted:“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance and these stockpiles of data serve only to make rich the companies that collect them. This should make us uncomfortable.”
On his own company's efforts, he said: “We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right but also recognise that not everyone sees it that way. The desire to put profits before privacy is nothing new.”
When it comes to ad tech in particular, Apple has been quite clear that use privacy comes first.
Last year, it launched an Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature that made it trickier for third parties to to obtain data on users of its Safari web browser. The tool works by limiting the ability of website owners and adtech outfits to track consumers using cookies to a 24-hour window.
In a separate address on Wednesday, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was beamed into the same EU conference to deliver a recorded defence of his business, declaring that data collection was a necessary condition to deliver ad-free services that were "affordable for everyone".