Apple wants national privacy laws. It wants good ones, too

Chance Miller for 9to5Mac:

(via Washington Post)

Apple has been a vocal supporter of protecting user data, but a new report from The Washington Post dives deeper into what lawmakers want from the company. The report details that while Apple has publicly called on lawmakers to pass privacy regulations, it tells a different story behind the scenes.

Tim Cook reportedly invited six Democratic lawmakers to Apple Park earlier this year, and used the meeting as an opportunity to make a case for federal privacy legislation:

“It was the first issue he brought up,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), one of the lawmakers who made the trip to Cupertino, Calif. The Apple chief “really talked about the need for privacy across the board,” said DelBene, a former Microsoft executive.

Report continues to explain that while Apple is pushing for privacy, it is also pushing back hard against state level privacy bills and hasn’t yet voiced support for any federal regulation.

MacDailyNews Take: The only thing worse than no privacy protection regulation would be poor privacy protection that doesn’t really address the matter. Perhaps this is what Apple is holding out for?


    1. I think that was his point. The laws against murder haven’t prevented it, but that isn’t a reason for repealing them. Laws regulating privacy won’t prevent violations, but that isn’t a reason for avoiding regulation entirely. Some people really are deterred by the murder laws and those who aren’t can be prosecuted and prevented from a repetition. Same thing with privacy laws. However, a patchwork of contradictory state laws might be worse than none at all. Internet crime is a lot less localized than homicide.

  1. I really wish Apple would design a straightforward competitor to Facebook that did a few simple things and had a users’ bill of rights that never changed and could always be counted upon to exist, lest the company’s entire reputation suffer. Facebook makes no promises, and therefore just gets to apologize all the time half-heartedly and survive with little to no damage because people don’t have another option that might be worth their time and become ubiquitous enough.

    I think you have two ways to access this network that is not funded by advertising of any kind. First, the purchase of any qualifying Apple device. Next, a fee of like $3-5 a month for non-Apple users paid through an iTunes or Apple Pay account.

    It would add value to Apple products and those who don’t buy them, for whatever reason, still have a way onto the platform at a nominal price. Another option would be to make the pages viewable for free to anyone, but only those who have the device or pay the fee can post things. That way, you can still share whatever it is you want to share with the world to anyone.

    What the bill of rights would contain I’d entertain suggestions. Right off the bat, that no one can ever access the actual data on your page (including what you view, “like” and search histories, etc.) except for you. Not even Apple. Encrypt all of it . . . . if law enforcement can find a way to constitutionally compel you to share your password, then fine. For the courts to decide on more or less a case by case basis as most everything ought to be.

    Build some way for users to import their Facebook data if they want to so people don’t have to build their pages from scratch. That might jumpstart a migration movement.

    At the end of the day, there are good things about social media and bad. After a decade, I think we have a much better idea of what makes the world a better place and what doesn’t. It’s time a company that has the resources, the motivation and the desire to build something that learns from the mistakes of the past does something bold.

  2. Every friggin time that Congress passes some sort pf consumer protection legislation, it institutes within it some big legal loophole, usually to benefit the legislative donor state or the Pentagon contractor resulting in inferior or no consumer protection. The Consumer Protection Bureau is one glaring example. It can now be called the Corporate Protection Bureau.

  3. Why should there be any laws against harvesting personal data? Most Facebook users are perfectly happy with using Facebook and gladly give Facebook their most personal information just so they can use the service for ‘free”. Facebook is easily more powerful than Apple will ever be. Facebook must have at least a couple of billion subscribers around the world and those numbers bring great influence and power. Facebook seems far more growth-worthy than Apple so Wall Street certainly isn’t going to ask for any laws governing Facebook. Apple is standing by itself and won’t get much support except by a few politicians who’ll try to get into office by standing on some privacy soapbox.

    If Tim Cook wants privacy then he should just build it into the Apple ecosystem. He needs to stop calling out other companies because he’s not going to get any support by doing that. Mark Zuckerberg is a more powerful and influential CEO than Tim Cook, and Zuckerberg is feared by a lot of people. Tim Cook couldn’t scare a rabbit. Apple isn’t feared by any companies and has basically become a standing joke on the internet. Exactly what power does Apple hold at this point? They basically have a dying iPhone business with Chinese Android smartphone manufacturers having the greatest advantage. Who is willing to back Tim Cook or Apple? No one that I can think of. I feel certain most consumers would sooner toss their Apple products away rather than give up using Facebook. Zuckerberg is unbeatable and can get away with practically anything as long as the company makes plenty of money.

    Just watch Facebook’s stock take off after the FTC fine and that will be proof enough that almost no one cares about privacy, apart from Apple. Apple can’t monetize privacy so why even waste any effort trying to protect it. Apple shareholders are definitely going to lose out because of Apple’s cry for privacy. I have a Facebook account with all fabricated information and Facebook is welcome to it. I only use Facebook as a sign-in portal because so many sites allow it. I hate that social crap but I know it will never go away. The world is full of Look-At-Me people who simply need that daily charge to keep them going. Facebook isn’t going anywhere and will likely surpass Apple in value in a few more years.

    1. I don’t think it’s so much that there needs to be laws against it. But there needs to be laws that define it and there ought to be straight forward information for users about what their data might be used for. And then, when a company does something that violates that promise to the user, there ought to be real implications. A dialogue about that is long overdue.

      Maybe an analogy might be that you are going to build a house with lots of windows and the window company says, “These are inexpensive and they let a certain amount of visibility through to your home and what’s going on inside.” And you look at it and say, “I’m giving up a little privacy at this amount of money — not quite as good of tint as I might want — but I think I can live with that.” And then days, weeks or years go by and you find out the windows were electronically tweaked in some way to allow even more clarity to the outside world. Or worse (and sadly even more accurate in this context) there were cameras installed that recorded your activities and the company sold the info to the highest bidder without letting you know ahead of time. That’d never be allowed to stand in this scenario, and it’s basically happening now.

  4. Laws only really work when they are enforced. I did a quick check on which countries have the best privacy laws, at least for the cloud. Unsurprisingly Apple’s home country did not appear in the top 8 , in fact the article mentions a warning about that country. Here are the greatest countries when it comes to having the best cloud privacy laws in 2019. From

    Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Iceland, Bulgaria, British Virgin Islands, The Seychelles, Panama.

    If Apple is really serious about privacy laws they might consider looking at those nations that are doing it right.

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