The current CEO of Apple, Tom Cook, set his sights on a specific group that he calls the “shadow conspiracy”. and urges everyone in America needs to listen to what he is saying.
In an op-ed that was published in Thursdays Time Magazine, Cook spoke on the importance of individuals knowing about a group known as data brokers and presented an argument for the United States to rein them in. The reason is quite simply that they are of detriment to everyone's online personal privacy.
You, like most other internet users, are probably not aware of what it is that data brokers actually do. Data brokers, which are firms that most have heard of such as Experian and Oracle, collect a massive amount of information on consumers, most of which is farmed from the internet.
They then turn around and act as middlemen and sell this information to a third or even fourth party. What is really interesting is that most consumers are not even aware that these data brokers exist, or to the extent to which they are sucking up data.
Cook states that a data broker is “a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and then sell it to yet another buyer.”
Cook went on to state that there are secondary markets that exist that want your information, and as such keep the data brokers in the business. However, these very same markets are somewhat of a shadow economy that is currently going unchecked by anyone—keeping them pretty much out of sight of consumers, lawmakers and regulators.
What Cook is calling out the government to do is to mandate federal privacy legislation that would require those who farm the data to be required to register with a “clearing house” of sorts. This would both empower consumers and provide the much need transparency of the brokers.
There are those who feel and have said they think that Cook's war on consumer privacy is more than hypocritical. They cite the fact that Apple's dealings in China are a bit of an “ethical blind spot” for both Cook and Apple as a whole. Not to mention that fact that although Apple doesn’t have an online ad business such as that of Google and Facebook, they have no problem with the taking of billions of dollars from Google in exchange for being the only search engine on their Safari browser.
What it all boils down to is that it looks like if it is not something that Cook and Apple are currently benefiting or profiting from, such as data brokering, then to them it is deemed unethical and needs to be regulated. Wonder what they would think if the same were to be said about their business structures?
Is data brokering unethical? Should brokers be governmentally regulated?