Speaking at a European Union meeting of privacy commissioners, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned that collection of information about people, from the everyday data to the deeply personal information, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. “This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them.” Without naming names, Cook referred to these data collection companies as the “data industrial complex.”
Cook made some great points about data privacy. Many in the tech industry are reluctant to embrace privacy regulation because of the potential to stifle innovation. Cook calls this attitude not just wrong, but destructive, because “we will never achieve technology’s true potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.” He applauds the EU’s adoption of the GDPR as a step in the right direction.
Cook believes that privacy is a fundamental right, which he breaks into four parts:
First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to de-identify customer data—or not to collect it in the first place.
Second, the right to knowledge. Users should always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for. This is the only way to empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t. Cooks states: “Anything less is a sham.”
Third, the right to access. Companies should recognize that data belongs to users, and we should all make it easy for users to get a copy of, correct, or delete their personal data.
Fourth, the right to security. Security is the foundation of trust and all other privacy rights.
Cook noted that many years ago Steve Jobs simply defined “privacy” in a way that is even more true today:
Privacy means people know what they are signing up for, in plain language, and repeatedly.
I often hear people say, “most farmers just don’t care” about data privacy or security, so why does it matter what we put in our contracts? This attitude confuses doing what’s right with doing what’s easy. Cook would call this laziness.
Cook’s speech gives us a good aspirational road map. Farmers should ask their agtech provider whether these four rights of privacy are baked into their platform. Agtech providers should ask themselves the same questions.
The last thing we need is an ag data industrial complex.
Read the full transcript here: Tim Cook Right to Privacy Speech