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Apple’s Tim Cook backs new US privacy laws: “Data is being weaponised against us”

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called on the US government to adopt tough new data protection laws inspired by GDPR.

Speaking to the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners on Wednesday, Cook warned that “deeply personal” data was being “weaponised against us with military efficiency”.

He said: “This year, [the EU has] shown the world that good policy and political will can come together to protect the rights of everyone. It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead. We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.”

The intervention marks Cook’s latest attack on his ad-funded rivals in Silicon Valley, and is the latest in a series of attempts to distinguish Apple as a pro-privacy company.

Apple was one of the US tech giants that pledged to roll out its GDPR privacy protections to consumers worldwide earlier this year. Microsoft was another. Shortly after Cook’s speech, the software giant’s privacy chief, Julie Brill, tweeted her support.

“We applaud Tim Cook for joining Microsoft in supporting a robust US federal privacy law,” she said. “GDPR has set a strong global standard, but privacy is not just a European value, it’s shared worldwide. It’s our shared responsibility–companies, governments & citizens–to protect privacy.”

Cook’s warm embrace of EU data protection regulation comes in stark contrast to his approach to the Union’s antitrust rules. Last year, Cook described Margrethe Vestager’s decision to order Ireland to collect billions of euros of tax from his company as “total political crap”. Apple paid the Irish government €14bn (£12.4bn) last month.

In light of GDPR, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a summer of data breaches, the annual gathering of data protection commissioners has enjoyed a higher profile this year. Microsoft’s Sundar Pichai, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and web inventor Tim Berners-Lee are among those speaking alongside Cook at the event.

It was announced on Tuesday that Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, had been elected as the next chair of the conference. Commenting on her appointment, she said: “My vision for the ICDPPC is to lead a decade of global data protection. A decade when data protection and privacy by design become mainstream aspects of the digital economy, safeguarding democratic governance and ensuring protection for society’s vulnerable groups, including young people.”