Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked of this year’s China Development Forum in Beijing today with an address that hit on a number of hot button topics, user privacy concerns and a looming U.S./China trade war.
The executive touched on privacy regulations, in the wake of a breech of trust that found Cambridge Analytica harvesting information from 50 million Facebook users.
“I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” Cook is quoted as saying, in a report from Bloomberg. “The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist.”
The specter of privacy concerns has, of course, been a hot button topic for Apple over the decades, particularly as devices and apps demand more and more of our personal information. Late last year, for instance, then Senator Al Franken pressed the company over Face ID — a subject to which Apple quickly responded.
Cook’s statement reflects similar comments Steve Jobs made about privacy back in 2010 and an event where Mark Zuckerberg was also speaking.
“Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English, and repeatedly,” Jobs said. “I’m an optimist; I believe people are smart, and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.”
In his own address, Cook noted that many of the concerns around what companies might do with all of the personal data “has come true more than once.”
Cook also addressed growing tensions between the U.S. and China, a market that has been increasingly important to Apple’s bottom line — and, of course, a place where much of the company’s manufacturing occurs.
“My belief is that businesses should be engaged with governments in countries where they are doing business, whether they agree or disagree,” Cook said, according to Reuters.
Tensions between the two countries have only grown more heated in recent days. Just this week, the Trump administration announced plans to place $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, with the burden landing heavily on electronics.
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