Apple CEO Tim Cook says the US government should let people track and delete their data ‘on demand’

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should implement a new framework that increases transparency around companies that handle user data and lets people track and delete information on them “on demand.”

Cook, in a Time magazine op-ed published Wednesday, said the FTC should form what he called a “data-broker clearinghouse,” evoking the image of a financial clearing house used for the exchange of payments, securities and other transactions in markets.

In the article, Cook says he and others are calling on U.S. Congress to pass “comprehensive federal privacy legislation” that lets consumers minimize the data held on them by firms and gives them the ability to know what personal information is being collected and to delete it.

“We believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all,” Cook said in the article.

He added: “Technology has the potential to keep changing the world for the better, but it will never achieve that potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.”

The move follows the Apple boss’ speech in Brussels last year, where he dubbed the business of collecting and selling user data as a “data industrial complex” and said personal information is being “weaponized against us with military efficiency.”

Cook has been increasingly calling for new U.S. regulations to help boost user privacy and data protection. Scrutiny around privacy in the tech sector has increased amid anger over the handling of user data by social media giants like Facebook and Alphabet’s Google.

Facebook last year was engulfed in a scandal around the way it let consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica gain access to the information of 87 million users. The firm has come under the lens of regulators — including the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which fined it £500,000 ($645,000) last year — over its approach to data protection.

Google, meanwhile, has been the subject of a European legal battle over the “right to be forgotten” — part of an EU law that requires search engines to delete person information about users if it’s deemed irrelevant or excessive. The company was recently handed a victory in that battle, after an adviser to the EU’s top court said it doesn’t need to guarantee that right to users outside of the bloc.

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