In some cases, Apple’s even funded trade groups that lobby against pro-consumer legislation.
Apple’s long talked big on privacy—but now, U.S. lawmakers are growing frustrated with the tech giant’s failure to follow through.
The Washington Post underscores the discord between Apple’s words and its action with an anecdote. Earlier this year, in spring, CEO Tim Cook privately hosted a half-dozen Democratic lawmakers in the company’s California headquarters.
Cook, says the Post, spent much of the meeting pleading with the politicians to draft and pass more privacy legislation.
“It was the first issue he brought up,” said Washington Rep. Suzan DelBene. “[Cook] really talked about the need for privacy across the board.”
DelBene brought up a bill she herself was working on, which would require tech companies to obtain consumers’ sensitive information before using it ‘unexpected’ ways. Despite Cook’s pleas for reform, the CEO wouldn’t explicitly endorse the proposal.
According to the Post, Apple’s relative inaction is well-known in certain circles. ‘State lawmakers,’ writes the W.P., ‘say Apple is an ally in name only – and in fact has contributed to lobbying efforts that might undermine some new data-protection legislation.’
The mismatch has proven incredibly frustrating for state-level lawmakers, who’ve spearheaded consumer protection initiatives as the Trump administration has turned a blind eye.
“While the headlines from Tim Cook have him being really forward on the idea of advancing the idea that policy can help control how data is used and mismanaged and abused, that hasn’t played out in policymaking,” said California Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Democrat. “I would welcome a stronger presence by Apple and I would also welcome their advocacy on what best practices should be.”
Levine recently worked on two consumer privacy bills, which were fought against by Apple-funded trade groups.
“They lobby in all these other areas,” Levine said, citing Apple’s support for a plastic bag ban. “They’re just not face-forward on privacy.”
Nevertheless, Apple continues to insist that it has Americans’ best interests at heart.
“We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and is at the core of what it means to be an American,” said Apple spokesman Fred Sainz. “To that end, we advocate for strong federal legislation that protects everyone regardless of what state they live in.
“We understand the frustration at the state level—we are frustrated too—but this topic is so important we need to be united across America.”
The Post says many politicians want Apple to bolster its rhetoric with action, perhaps acting as a corporate foil to reluctant companies like Google and Facebook. Yet the Washington Post also found that, contrary to Apple’s practices, its devices aren’t safe from intrusion or tracking. For instance, Apple lets many iPhone apps track and record user data, which is then sold off or sent to third parties.
It only just revised its collection policies, promising to halt tracking in apps designed for and marketed to children.
The Post’s July article on Apple’s inaction indicates a peculiar trend: spokespeople fiercely advocating for better privacy regulation, followed by political indifference or even opposition. Many politicians interviewed by the W.P. detailed the company’s lack of support for their own initiatives.
In contrast, even Microsoft has teamed up with Mozilla to back bills that’d prevent consumers from unwitting signing agreements that’d let loose their personal information—bills Apple knew about, but refused to touch.