Apple’s Tim Cook in Brussels: The data crisis is real (video)

Print Email

“Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade.”  —Louis Brandeis


From Apple CEO’s keynote address Wednesday to the 40th International Conference of Data Protection & Privacy Commissioners in Brussels Wednesday:

As far back as 1890, future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis published an article in the Harvard Law Review, making the case for a “Right to Privacy” in the United States.

He warned: “Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade.”

Today that trade has exploded into a data industrial complex. Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency.

Every day, billions of dollars change hands, and countless decisions are made, on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, Our relationships and conversations… Our wishes and fears… Our hopes and dreams.

These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded, and sold.

Taken to its extreme, this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is then run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions. If green is your favorite color, you may find yourself reading a lot of articles—or watching a lot of videos—about the insidious threat from people who like orange.

In the news, almost every day, we bear witness to the harmful, even deadly, effects of these narrowed worldviews.

We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them.

This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us. And it illustrates the importance of our shared work and the challenges still ahead of us.

Cue the YouTube video:

My take: A slow curve in Tim Cook’s strike zone. Kudos to whoever found that Brandeis quote.