Apple CEO demands federal privacy law – Reuters

Apple CEO Tim Cook has written a letter to the US Congress urging lawmakers to enact federal privacy legislation. The requested law would prohibit app developers from transmitting user data to third parties without their consent and would crack down on targeted advertising. Apple is apparently better placed than its competitors to comply with such a law.

Cook met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday and sent a letter on Friday to the chairs and senior members of the House and Senate Commerce Committees, three of whom collaborated on a privacy bill released earlier this this month.

“At Apple, we believe that privacy is a fundamental human right,” Cook wrote. “That’s why we have always advocated for comprehensive privacy legislation and contributed to the process whenever possible.”

Cook bragged about his own company’s minimal data collection, but wrote that “Only Congress can provide strong privacy protections for all Americans. The continued absence of this important legislation will unfortunately perpetuate a patchwork approach to privacy rights that will leave too many without the rigorous standards we hope to see.

In the absence of federal privacy legislation, individual states establish their own data privacy laws. Only five states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia — have passed laws granting individuals the right to access and delete personal information and to opt out of the sale of that personal information, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In its current form, US privacy and data protection law would require tech companies to collect only data deemed “necessary,” and would require these companies to ask users to agree to the sharing of this data with third parties, such as advertisers and market researchers. Consumers would have the right to view and delete data held by technology companies, and companies engaged in advertising targeted to minors would be “expressly prohibited”.

By encouraging the passage of such a bill, Apple would likely give itself a leg up on the competition, according to an article in Mashable on Saturday. The tech site argued that other companies would need more time to adapt to any potential regulations, and that Apple has already profited greatly by presenting itself as more privacy-conscious than rivals Facebook and Google.

Most notably, Apple in 2016 resisted FBI pressure to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters responsible for a massacre in San Bernardino, California. The day before the FBI was due to sue Apple, the agency backed down, having found an Israeli company capable and willing to crack the phone.

Still, Cook’s company does not support all of Congress’s attempts to regulate its industry. Antitrust legislation currently pending in the Senate would force Apple to allow competing app stores on its devices, breaking its monopoly on apps that iPhone and iPad users can install. Although Cook lobbied against this legislation, saying it would allow “data hunger” apps on Apple devices, the bill is expected to pass as early as this month.

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