Tim Cook on data privacy

Tim Cook, writing for Time Magazine:

That’s why I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation:

First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to strip identifying information from customer data or avoid collecting it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge—to know what data is being collected and why. Third, the right to access. Companies should make it easy for you to access, correct and delete your personal data. And fourth, the right to data security, without which trust is impossible.


One of the biggest challenges in protecting privacy is that many of the violations are invisible. For example, you might have bought a product from an online retailer—something most of us have done. But what the retailer doesn’t tell you is that it then turned around and sold or transferred information about your purchase to a “data broker”—a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and sell it to yet another buyer.

The trail disappears before you even know there is a trail. Right now, all of these secondary markets for your information exist in a shadow economy that’s largely unchecked—out of sight of consumers, regulators and lawmakers.

I applaud Tim’s efforts here. But this road is a difficult one. Just think about all the efforts made to prevent spam, both in your email, and via your phone.

The national do-not-call registry was a solid idea. But it lacked teeth. Like most people, I still regularly get phone calls from spammers and scammers, some spoofing local numbers to make me think the call is from someone I know.

Ridding ourselves of the spammers and scammers takes legislation with teeth. Ridding ourselves of behind the scenes data-brokers will take the same.

Again, I applaud the effort, but it won’t be easy. As always, follow the money. If what you want to get rid of is enriching someone, they’ll use that money to hamper your efforts, via lobbying and political donations. Fortunately, in this case, Apple has deep enough pockets to make a difference here.

Go get ’em Tim.