Apple’s Tim Cook Says We Need More Privacy Regulations, and He’s Right

2 minute read
| Editorial

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. –Andy Warhol

For years, smartphone customers have happily glossed over the fact that massive dossiers were being collected about their private life, interests, and behavior. Will there finally be regulatory reform?

The Spying Eye Waiting in Every Device

Who’s on the other side, collecting our data?

Apple generally doesn’t make much of a fuss, in its video ads, about the privacy protections in its products. Of course, they are well known to those who pay attention. And there is plenty of written information published by Apple. See: apple.com/privacy. And there are other technical resources, both from Apple and by great journalists. See, for example, Apple’s iOS Security Guide.

Video Mania

But my take is that we’re in a video age. The preponderance of influence, end even education, is by video means. That’s percolating into VR and AR. The traditional method, of study by books, technical magazines and websites has a hard time capturing the imagination and interest of many, many people. Especially students.

The result of this is that spectacular, alluring video has muddied our ability to think critically in the tradition of academic study. Facebook has been particularly good at appealing to the psychological needs of users to be seen, noticed, appreciated and admired. How else can one explain how willing people are to advertise personal details?

This oblivious technical approach extends to a technical understanding of the devices we use. Recently, it was discovered that “Facebook logged all your calls and texts because Google’s Android allowed it.” And, I surmise, if one were to ask the average Android user about the relative security of Android vs. iOS, they’d engage in conformation bias. After all, “Google security chief claims Android is now just as secure as iOS.

Setting up a technical belief system involves more that being jostled by the loudest voice or the most engaging YouTube video.

Regulation is Protection First

Government regulations are designed to protect those who do not have the wherewithal to protect themselves. It’s a service provided by the government for public safety. Only after justly crafted protection is in place does commerce play a major role. Clearly, however, it’s been in the government’s best interest to allow social media, like Facebook, to collect information that can be handily obtained upon presentation of a warrant. The business of America has been the business of surveillance.

The recent revelations regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica suggest that a laissez-faire approach isn’t serving the best interests of citizens. Europe recognized this early on, and the “General Data Protection Regulation” is about ready to go into effect.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Tim Cook has nailed the problem. Time to pour on the coals.

When Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, says that: “Facebook’s privacy blunder ‘so dire’ we need regulations,” he’s not just poking competitive fun at another tech giant’s blunder. Apple has been focusing on privacy for as long as the issue has been an issue. And, as we know, Apple has held its ground against the FBI and others who want (questionable) back doors into our iPhones.

Real Change

The tendency of the media is to focus on the pronouncements and desires of various notable people. A fuss about a fuss makes for alluring news. But the real change comes about from hard work behind the scenes. That’s the difficult part because power always uses its power to grant itself more power. It’s very hard to convince those with power to, in fact, give up power.

But that’s exactly what we’re faced with. Apple’s famous CEO has spoken firmly about the crisis. Finally. Hearings have started. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg may soon testify before Congress. People are deleting their Facebook accounts in droves.

Perhaps this is a galvanizing event. Perhaps Mr. Cook, with his considerable clout and influence, can be the one who spearheads a new kind of thinking about how various services collect massive information about us. But he’ll have to be persistent and gather corporate supporters. It’ll be a tough road. And then, perhaps the Cambridge Analytica affair will finally result in real regulatory change.

And THAT would be real news.

4 Comments Add a comment

  1. John Kheit

    Disagree. Congress is incapable of any such thing. Also, for a platform that is designed to say “HEY WORLD LOOOOOOK AT MEEEEEEE” anyone complaining about loss of privacy on FB is either demonstrating their IQ or their ability to preen.

    But youre in luck, you wanted some ‘well tailored regulation’ here you go. This is what our govt. is capable of….hint, it’s the opposite of what’s in the 1st amendment…

    http://macdailynews.com/2018/03/27/microsoft-to-ban-offensive-language-and-monitor-private-data-to-investigate-users/

    • gGrant

      Don’t go knocking those trying to filter out unlawful content, now. Check your so-called Net Neutrality legislation. It always includes the golden phrase “lawful content” just waiting to reach out and put everyone’s proverbial jewels in a vice – which will slowly tighten until only the lobbyists’ content is “lawful” and see what kind of internet you have then! Torrents… that’ll be illegal. 4chan you’re gone. Tumbler, you’ll never clean up your act, you’re gone. Redit, you’ve got red in your title, that’s gotta be commie Russian… and so it goes.

      Nobody is more concerned about Privacy than I am. I don’t even have my name on my blog, (the best way to have privacy is to not give them your data in the first place). But this is the most alarming development in the fear control mechanism. Tread very carefully.

  2. gGrant

    What you’ll end up with is Privacy legislation the way everyone has a Privacy Policy – this is what we think of your privacy and this is how we’re going to abuse it. We will only share your personal information… with any contractor we hire. Click here to agree.

    What’s the rush? Nobody cared about Privacy before. If you seriously think anyone who deleted their Facebook account this week won’t be back the week after next… you’re delusional. Even TMO employees vehemently opposed to everything Facebook stands for, choose to promote the site on Facebook. This is a Democrat storm in a teacup to distract from Obama’s campaign grabbing the whole of the Social graph of the USA when they had their chance. And the obedient media is doing their part. Facebook will be brought to heel and do their part or they will be “regulated”, too.

  3. wab95

    John:

    It can be argued that anyone using such a platform as FB should expect that their privacy will be eviscerated and suspended above the public square for all and sundry to see, and whose parts or corpus whole can be served up and sold to anyone willing to pay; however I don’t think that this passes what many, in any regulated industry, would consider ‘a reasonable expectation’ or an ‘expectation that any reasonable person’ would conclude.

    In my discussions with people about social media, outside of discussion fora such as TMO, I am continually met with surprise by people who do not understand how FB works, or for that matter Google or any other corporation whose business model is built around you, the user, as the product. This is hardly the first instance of an industry employing contracts whose terms are poorly understood by a large swathe of users.

    Certainly, one perspective is to dismiss all such uninformed people as malleable mental midgets who are merely reaping the rewards of their own stupidity, ungenerous thought that might be. An alternative perspective is to see this in the context of a fairly recently emerged industry, unregulated, whose ground rules were never fully appreciated by a plurality if not majority of its user base – a user base that stands in need of formal protection from what can be considered predatory and abusive practices, whose private sector overreach threatens both security and liberty itself for the user.

    Social media are an evolving field in which an ever changing landscape is moulded by the dialectic between privacy and security, the stakes of which are the limitations of domain over the data of private citizens by both the private and public sectors.

    Unregulated social media is a double edged sword, and may yet prove to be Frankenstein’s monster. Just as it can be used as a honey pot for gathering and harvesting personal information, it is designed to serve as a public forum for organised discussion, planning, and coordinated action. For any issue. And that may now include the policies and practices of those very corporations who engage in these practices, like FB, Google and others.

    In the USA, this is an election year. And, in an election year, if there is one thing that politicians try to avoid, it’s being on the wrong side of popular opinion. Given the concerns about privacy, security, elections and their meddling, and an increasingly activist population galvanised by a number of hot-button issues, and politicians struggling to straddle a polarised political landscape, we may have an alignment of opportunities for politicians to purchase some good will at the expense of Silicon Valley, and impose some needed regulation that increases the power of the user over their own data with penalties for non-compliance by industry.

    While one should never underestimate the capacity of elected officials to spurn opportunity, look gift horses in the mouth, shoot themselves in the foot or other parts, and otherwise rescue irresponsibility from the jaws of accountability, one can hope nonetheless.

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