Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken to the pages of Time magazine to argue for comprehensive digital privacy legislation:
Meaningful, comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only aim to put consumers in control of their data, it should also shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes. Some state laws are looking to accomplish just that, but right now there is no federal standard protecting Americans from these practices. That’s why 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 and Apple have, of course, made privacy one of their major selling points over the last several years, especially as data breaches and privacy intrusions have become regular occurrences. So there’s obviously a vested interest for the company to push such legislation: it’ll hurt its competitors much more than it will hurt Apple itself.
But, be that as it may, it also has the benefit of being the right thing to do. The other month I came home from vacation to find a note that my application for a credit card had been rejected—a credit card I had, of course, never applied for. But what’s worse than that is that there is nothing remotely shocking about that news to anybody reading this site: we’ve all either been the victim of people trying to steal (or successfully stealing) our identity or know someone who’s been a victim, and it’s largely due to these kinds of personal data breaches.
I’d argue, to take a step further, that simply protecting our information isn’t enough. Put simply, the federal identity system needs to be overhauled. Relying on a nine-digit “secret” number—or worse, knowledge of easily obtainable information like your birth date or mother’s maiden name—to establish your identity is a dangerously outmoded concept that might have been fine in the early 20th century, but it’s far from sufficient these days. A more secure cryptographic-based system is a must in this day and age.