Apple CEO Tim Cook has asked US regulators to scrutinise data brokers and reiterated his calls for comprehensive federal privacy legislation to protect consumers.
“Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives,” Cook wrote in Time Magazine.
The Apple chief proposed legislation to minimise the collection of data, improve consumer access to their collected data, and give individuals more control over how it is used. But it was the shady secondary data markets that Cook singled out, arguing much more transparency is needed and the practice is out of step with consumer expectations.
Cook used a basic example of online retailers selling consumer data acquired through routine transactions to data brokers, fuelling a “shadow economy that’s largely unchecked—out of sight of consumers, regulators and lawmakers”.
“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.”
Consumers never signed up for that, Cook says, and should have the chance to stop the trading of their data.
Apple has long advocated tougher privacy laws and praised the introduction of GDPR in the EU. The latest Mac and mobile versions of the Safari browser included much stricter privacy and tracking controls, ruffling some feathers in the adtech community.
In Cook’s latest call he even raised the possibility of a “data-broker clearinghouse” which would requiring all data-brokers to register with the FTC. The goal being to increase transparency for consumers about who is using their data, how it is collected, and give them the power to delete their data “on demand”.