Cook called for “well-crafted” regulations that prevent the information of users being put together and applied in new ways without their knowledge during a session on global inequality at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday.
His comments will ramp up pressure on Facebook Inc. and other technology companies that rely on the huge reams of data gathered from billions of people to power their products, services and sales. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg belatedly apologized for failing to better control its customers’ data following reports that it let Cambridge Analytica amass information on 50 million users. The social network’s shares have tumbled 14 percent following the reports.
“I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” Cook said after being asked if the use of data should be restricted in light of the Facebook incident. “The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist.”
Cook said his company had long worried that people around the world were giving up information without knowing how it could be used.
“We’ve worried for a number of years that people in many countries were giving up data probably without knowing fully what they were doing and that these detailed profiles that were being built of them, that one day something would occur and people would be incredibly offended by what had been done without them being aware of it,” he said. “Unfortunately that prediction has come true more than once.”
Top U.S. executives from Google chief Sundar Pichai to IBM’s Ginny Rometty gathered in Beijing this weekend under the shadow of a brewing trade war, as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to slap tariffs on Chinese goods, potentially affecting more than $50 billion worth of products. Until the U.S. government formalizes the details of the tariffs, the impact on American companies will be difficult to gauge.
Cook said that he held passionate views on the issue and that he’d personally weighed into the debate.
“The countries that embrace openness do exceptional and the countries that don’t, don’t,” he said. “It’s not a matter of carving things up between sides. I’m going to encourage that calm heads prevail.”