Apple boss Tim Cook has said the technology giant fully supports the introduction of a “comprehensive federal privacy law” in the US to protect users and their data.
Mr Cook said the company recognises that privacy is a “fundamental human right” but “rogue actors and even governments” have taken advantage of user trust to undermine society in what he labelled a “crisis”.
The Apple chief executive was speaking at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, and said the technology industry must take more responsibility for the devices and services it creates.
He said the use of data was being weaponised with military efficiency against users and criticised the mentality of “profits over privacy” in some parts of the industry.
“Every day, billions of dollars change hands and countless decisions are made on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, our relationships and conversations, our wishes and fears, our hopes and dreams,” he said.
“These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesised, 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.
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences, this is surveillance.”
Mr Cook said this should make everyone uncomfortable and highlighted the need for more “shared work” between business and legislators to protect user privacy.
“Now more than ever, as leaders of governments, as decision-makers in business, and as citizens we must ask ourselves a fundamental question: what kind of world do we want to live in?,” he said.
“At Apple, we are optimistic about Apple’s awesome potential for good, but we know that it won’t happen on its own.
“As I’ve said before, technology is capable of doing great things, but it doesn’t want to do great things – it doesn’t want anything – that part takes all of us.”
He added that technology must be created to serve humans and not the other way around.
The technology boss also praised the European Union’s introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May and the greater control over the use of personal data it gives users.
“Fortunately, this year you have shown the world that good policy and political will can come together to protect the rights of everyone,” he said.
“We should celebrate the transformative work of the European institutions tasked with the successful implementation of the GDPR.
“It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead. We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.”
Mr Cook said such regulation should be built around four main rights – data minimisation and less collection, knowledge on how it is being used, access to information gathered and the right to security around that data.
“It’s time to face facts: we will never achieve technology’s full potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it,” he said.