Every minute of everyday personal data is harvested, segmented, and monetized. This data drives a $227 billion industry, fueled by the digital footprints of millions of people.
This isn’t new information. Large corporations have known the dangers of their technologies for decades. Yet, none of the tech giants have spoken out about consequences for users, if these behaviors continue to go unchecked. That is, until now.
Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, just openly discussed this practice — of mining personal data and monetizing it — and acknowledged how rampant it runs within today’s internet ecosystem. In an interview with GQ, Cook said this “degrades our fundamental right to privacy first, and our social fabric by consequence,” and contributes to a world full of “rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms.”
To combat this digital abuse, Cook talked about Apple’s new initiatives designed to offer a new level of data privacy for its users, a layer of protection unique to the industry.
There are many reasons why Cook’s interview and positioning commands attention, but the main one is this: We have not yet seen such a powerful figure make a statement about data control being used for nefarious ends. This is the beginning of corporations bringing data privacy and data management to the forefront of conversation, and as such, making the user more of a priority.
While Tim Cook was the first influential industry leader to address the abuse of personal data, he won’t be the last. By speaking to the significant societal benefits of data protection, Cook pushes corporations to highlight data privacy measures as both risk mitigation and a competitive advantage. His perspective raises awareness within the reticent technology landscape, encouraging a change in the way the industry captures and harnesses consumer data.
For large corporations, relinquishing some of the responsibility of storing mass amounts of personal data both decreases liability and mitigates risk. By transferring the burden of managing millions of digital footprints, the big tech companies (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft) can continue creating world-class platforms and tools without the risk and culpability they now incur.