Apple’s Tim Cook Warns of Data Weaponisation

Tim Cook is the latest in a long line of public figures who have come forward to warn that data is being weaponised against people and societies. He made this stance while giving his keynote speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), held in Brussels. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, considered the inventor of the World Wide Web, was also in attendance and another keynote speaker at the event.

Cook continued to explain that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is part of this data weaponisation, because it is one of the key tools in the collection of data. AI technology at its core is used to learn from the behaviour of its users. Individually, it is used to speed up a device’s response rate to a user’s needs, like when apps open faster because the AI recognises when an app is more likely to be used. As a collective, AI is then collected and amassed, at the face of it used to improve machine learning and overall response rate, but is it only for that?

This is the age of Big Data (defined as – extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions) and companies that sit on a lot of data, are sitting on a gold mine of information. For the right price, that data could be collated and sold to the wrong parties to misuse and abuse.

Tim Cook went on to hail the actions of the European Union and its work with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), stating that Europe and other countries like Singapore, Japan, Brazil and New Zealand have made similar reforms. He ended this point by saying that his home country, namely America, to follow their lead.

Cook outlines the four points the US needs to prioritise; data minimisation, transparency, the right to access and the right to security. These four points, he said, gives back the right to users control of their own data and reduces the risk of exposure for the public.

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