Apple chief Cook attacks ‘surveillance’

Apple CEO Tim Cook has criticised firms like Google and Facebook that collect user data, equating their services to “surveillance”, as he touted the importance of privacy and legislation to protect it.

The comments, given at an EU privacy conference in Brussels yesterday, come months after the bloc implemented strict new data protection rules and as Apple begins to mend a difficult relationship with the EU following a clash over €13bn in allegedly unpaid taxes.

In some of his harshest rebukes of his competitors yet, Mr Cook, pictured, sought to distinguish the iPhone maker from Silicon Valley competitors, like Alphabet’s Google and Facebook, both under scrutiny for recent user data breaches.

“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences,” he said. “This is surveillance and these stockpiles of data serve only to make rich the companies that collect them. This should make us uncomfortable.” Mr Cook has previously criticised the companies for basing their business models on harvesting personal information for advertising, while highlighting that Apple tries to collect as little of it as possible.

“We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right but also recognise that not everyone sees it that way,”

Mr Cook said, referring to his competitors. “The desire to put profits over privacy is nothing new.”

Mr Cook also reiterated calls for federal privacy laws in the US similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) unveiled in Europe.

In the wake of those new EU rules, regulators and lawmakers in Europe and the US have trained their eyes on Facebook and Google, particularly following revelations of potential user privacy violations.

Facebook in September reported a cyberattack that affected 30 million people, with hackers stealing user information including of searches and locations.