back to article Apple boss decries 'data industrial complex' while pocketing, er, billions to hook Google into iOS

At a European conference for privacy watchdogs on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook praised EU data protection supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli for defending privacy and warned that technology, for all its utility, can do harm rather than good. "Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Heiman said the reason the US tech industry is the envy of the world is that regulation was relatively light compared to elsewhere"

    It depends on who's doing the envying. Would-be slurpers, maybe. The product (the rest of us) not so much.

    What's his National Security Institute done for us?

  2. JohnFen

    Good on Tim Cook

    "Heiman said the reason the US tech industry is the envy of the world is that regulation was relatively light compared to elsewhere, allowing companies like AirBnB, Facebook, Google, and others to develop."

    This may or may not actually be true, but for the sake of this comment, I'll pretend that it is. My response is: so what?

    "Innovation" has turned into a blanket excuse to justify the ongoing, and increasing, attack against the liberties of actual human beings. It's just another way of saying that harmful actions should be considered fine as long as someone is making a lot of money from it.

    I reject that line of argument completely. If the choice is between innovation and freedom (and I don't think it is), then give me freedom.

  3. Oh Matron!

    "Alex Stamos, former CISO of Facebook and presently an adjunct professor at Stanford University in the US, took the opportunity to point out a longstanding inconsistency in Cook's position, specifically Apple's desire to do business in China, where authorities have legal support to obtain just about any data they might want"

    Of course he did... Whilst there may be an inconsistency, it's better than allowing access to ALL data, something Stamos seems to have forgotten with the whole Cambridge Analytica

  4. HolySchmoley

    The CEO of a company that exploits stupid people's belief in fairy stories telling them they are getting a magic potion at little cost berates companies that exploit stupid people's belief in fairy stories telling them they are getting a magic potion at little cost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well... yeh, that's fair.

      You're on to something.

      9 billion to Apple is supposedly less than 1% of their supposed value. Which company would risk such a public backlash for less than 1% of their own value? How about a company who knows its value is drastically over priced? Google's "value" is also questioned if you reverse the positions.

      So, you say one slim company calling another slim company slim. It might simply be slim helping slim getting ready for a future fallout. The Apple+Google deal has scary foreshadowing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "9 billion to Apple is supposedly less than 1% of their supposed value"

        There's a big difference - those 9bn from Google are cash or something equivalent, Apple supposed market value is just on paper - good when used to borrow, etc. - but something you can't really turn into real cash quickly without also sinking it as well. Also, shareholder expect dividends from profits (or buy-backs), and those profits won't come from the pure value of their shares. And a wrong step could quickly wipe a lot of that value.

        Thus, getting billions of cash is something even Apple can't ignore - especially revenues like this which have microscopic associated costs, thereby are mostly a pure profit.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear old Tim O'Grady Paul Cook, bless him.

  6. doublelayer Silver badge

    Market benefits

    Sure, apple gets benefits from having a product that respects* privacy. I, at least, consider that a good thing. I want companies that respect privacy to have an easier time. The argument that you can't innovate and respect privacy at the same time is ridiculous, and I hope to see new innovators replacing other large market players for whom privacy is seen as a roadblock they can just circle around.

    *Apple respecting privacy: Terms and conditions apply. Things look good when comparing products to competitors. Terms are not as pleasant as they appear, just more pleasant than other options.

  7. SVV

    Tim Cook piously gets out the human rights measuring stick

    And finds that the companies he sizes up are found wanting. But were he to apply it to a company he runs, he may find the result to be somewhere in the region of "gross hypocrisy".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tim Cook piously gets out the human rights measuring stick

      Very true. And true for all the Cooks, Bezos', Schmidts and Ellisons : full of morality, and then they check their share portfolios and wake up...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Tim Cook piously gets out the human rights measuring stick

      It's not as if Appple doesn't collect personal data or sell advertising.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tim Cook piously gets out the human rights measuring stick

        Every company that has customers collects personal data - they have to in order to do business with you.

        The collecting isn't the issue per se - it's how much they collect vs. what they actually need to do business with you, what they do with that extra data, how they use it, and particularly, who they share it with for what purposes, and how much money does that make them.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Things have gone downhill since the 1600s

    Heiman said the reason the US tech industry is the envy of the world is that regulation was relatively light compared to elsewhere, allowing companies like AirBnB, Facebook, Google, and others to develop.

    When companies promote regulations, he said, he worries they're doing so to make it more difficult for challengers to enter the market.

    The East India Company of course was a bastion of fair play and would argue the same thing.

    Not that I'm saying that Facebook or Google are like the East India Company, you understand... Unless you count how they pillage data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Things have gone downhill since the 1600s

      Why start the chain at the 1600's?

      Day 1: Oink stole Boink's cave and woman, Shoink. Shoink, well she learned to manipulate Oink's confidence. Shoink met Boink's new woman, Gloink. Shoink and Gloink now plot. They run the caves for a reason.

      Whatever the example, it's just the evolution of corruption.

      1. gujiguju

        Re: Things have gone downhill since the 1600s

        Entertaining fable.

        (I was of the impression “boink” was a verb…)

        1. onefang

          Re: Things have gone downhill since the 1600s

          "(I was of the impression “boink” was a verb…)"

          The language has changed a little since the 1600s.

  9. Milton

    He's mostly right

    Notwithstanding our inalienable right to snark at whiffs of hypocrisy and self-interest, I submit (again) that Cook's central proposition is correct: democratic governments must act to prevent companies holding any data on people that is not of genuine, hard, operational use. This "profiling" nonsense has got to stop. It is proving to be extremely damaging in a raft of ways that, in one respect, were unpredictable and yet seem chillingly obvious to anyone who's read Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    It's not just about invasions of privacy. It's not just about the how the culpable stupidity of the "free" model has led to human beings themselves becoming product. It's not only about the woeful uselessness of supposedly targeted advertising, which attracts billions while simply not working. More than any of those pernicious things, it is about the internet as an echoing cave for people's darker, nastier, more vicious, less tolerant aspects—in fact, let's say just say medieval vices—where anonymity, malice and ignorance confect a perfect storm of absolutist, partisan, screaming hatred. This isn't just ugly: it is existentially dangerous.

    In the 500 years or so since Enlightenment and the rise of science, fact and reason have gradually nudged out superstition and ignorance, and people—especially those of us privileged to grow up in western, industrialised democracies—have learned to be infinitely more social, cooperative, inclusive and discursive in their approach to each other in groups both large and small, whether majority or minority. We have become, by and large, more civilised, wrapping essential layers of cooperative, tolerant sociability around our evolutionary heritage as rapacious, vicious animals.

    When your means of political expression was a signed letter to the newspaper, printed only if you hewed to a degree of fact, logic and arguable opinion, you made your case as well as you could and for the most part without pointless abuse or childish lies. We had moved past the days when grubby boys, paid a ha'penny by this or that aggrieved party, scattered vicious libels on the streets of London.

    The internet has allowed us to revert. The damage is all around, for all to see. Anonymous cowards—those who would otherwise be obliged to conceal their essentially malicious, hateful nature—can fabricate the most outrageous nonsense for the blinkered and ignorantly partisan to repeat to each other. Before you know it there are apparently sane human beings telling you that of course there's no smoke without fire, so there must be something to the story about Democrats running a paedophile ring from the basement of a pizza shop ...

    Better education and awareness will help, but cunning vermin will find a way to pollute the debate: just look at what Vlad The Emailer has been up to.

    The only answer is to put the net onto a properly paid-for-service footing: exorcise anonymity, ban the retention of non-op data and bring the web back from the brink of medieval barbarism. We have to do this or we're in bigger trouble than we can imagine: Trump and Brexit are just the warm up.

    1. strum

      Re: He's mostly right

      >exorcise anonymity

      While I applaud your rational and thoughtful comment, this bit needs examination.

      There are many territories where expressing an opinion, or reporting a crime, can be very dangerous indeed. There must be some route for anonymous expression. It need not be easy, or generally-available (think, of old), but it does need to exist.

      There's another layer, where a comment can be anonymous, but traceable (you may not know or care who 'strum' is, but Theregister does - and could identify me, if I did something naughty).

      Finally, in an anon-free world, there would still be sockpuppets and fake posters; who is going to check each and every logon for a real person? It may be that the price paid is not worth the value extracted.

      1. onefang

        Re: He's mostly right

        "Finally, in an anon-free world, there would still be sockpuppets and fake posters; who is going to check each and every logon for a real person? It may be that the price paid is not worth the value extracted."

        We already have dead people voting.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: He's mostly right

          I agree with most of your points, but the anonymity or at least pseudonymity is really needed. If people used something that could identify them reliably, tracking would become really easy (I recommend a book entitled "The Circle" by Dave Eggers to see one likely thing that happens after that). Not only would identifying names used everywhere be a nightmare from a privacy perspective, it would also be very difficult to create. The only methods I can think of that would really do it would be a cure much worse than the disease.

          And then there isn't really that much between anonymity and pseudonymity online. I generally prefer using a name that identifies me to others even though they can't track that down very far, but there can be some reasons to want even less identification. I will admit to posting anonymously here, usually when discussing a former employer, because although they probably aren't reading this, and they probably don't know that I'm the person who no longer works there, I'd like them to continue not knowing.

          I agree about a lot of the problems you mention. I don't know a way that we can prevent that from infecting our society, but eventually things will get less crazy.

    2. JohnFen

      Re: He's mostly right

      "exorcise anonymity"

      I'm with you except for your dislike for anonymity. Anonymity is an essential component to being free and being able to freely express opinion. It should not be "exorcised".

      Indeed, short of draconian measures that bring even greater nastiness, it cannot be exorcised.

    3. The Nazz

      Re: He's mostly right

      I mostly agree with you and have upvoted accordingly.

      From my limited viewing of social media, i find a growing number of people don't bother with anonymity and just flat out use their true name whilst posting downright nasty, offensive and malicious stuff. Possibly because of their selfish need to be heard, overestimating their own importance (if any) to society. eg from todays main BBC News website :

      Not that the BBC's relentless agenda helps in any way other formenting such discord and malaise.

      Should we be surprised? 1997 - Mr "Education, Education, Education" Blair predates the use of smartphones and widespread use of the internet, his sidekick Brown and the Iraq debacle, hardly set a respectable example.

      Any surprise that Mental Health issues are said to be at an all time high.

  10. DavCrav

    "On a certain level I think Apple is somewhat genuine about this topic when it's in its market interest to be genuine"

    So they tell the truth when it suits their interests, and don't when it doesn't? The word for that is 'liar', not 'partial truth teller'. Liars don't have to lie in all statements, unless they appear in logic puzzles.

  11. MJI Silver badge

    Bloody hell Paul is busy

    Are we going to get any more Battersea Dogs Home programmes?

    He seems too busy

  12. David Paul Morgan
    IT Angle

    Tim Cook - seperated at birth ...

    ... from Actor/Performer Paul O'Grady..?

    1. BoldMan

      Re: Tim Cook - seperated at birth ...

      Which one is Lily Savage at the weekends?

  13. onefang

    We are the product, does that mean we are the soylent green that feeds the corporations?

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    He expressed marked interest in market interest...

    ... followed up by perfoming a bloody cash hoggy at the conference while assuring everyone that their data was safe.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "That's how much Google is expected to pay Apple this year to be the default search provider on iDevices,"

    Is this "default search provider" just Google's Chrome browser that can be deleted (not just disabled) or are we talking about something similar to GMS on Android?

    (Serious question as I am thinking of switching over to an iPhone)

    If it is the latter I guess I will stick to flashing Lineage on inexpensive droids

    1. gujiguju

      Default Search in Safari

      Not like Google Mobile Services collection of apps, on Android...this is simply the default search provider in Mobile Safari (and the iOS Search field, as well). Given that the vast majority never change the default, it’s incredibly valuable, thus Google forks over $9B this year, and apparently $12B in 2019 for the privilege (according to Asymco).

      Not sure about your comment about Chrome. Yes, you can get Chrome from the Apple App Store (or Opera, for example) to browse instead of Safari.

      Note that it takes 10 seconds to change to DuckDuckGo or other search engine. (Yes, that scream of horror that you just heard was from Larry & Sergei.)

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