Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) on Tuesday sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook urging him to allow customers to opt out of having their personal data recorded by third-party developers who sell their apps on the company’s platform.
In the letter, Hawley praised Cook’s decision to roll out a new operating system that will provide customers with an Apple login designed to protect their personal email from app developers, but argued that the CEO could be doing more to prevent app developers from profiting off of user data collected for reasons unrelated to their apps’ functionality.
Citing a recent Washington Post report, Hawley pointed out that while developers cannot track certain “system-level data” such as contact and locations, they are not prevented from “pilfering mountains of other data and then sharing it with third parties.”
Hawley, who has emerged as the foremost Republican critic of tech censorship and privacy abuses just months into his first term, then asked that Cook support his recently introduced “Do Not Track Act,” which would allow Americans to opt out of data tracking in much the same way they can now join a “do not call” list to avoid telemarketing calls.
“I am optimistic that Congress will give my bipartisan bill serious consideration, but you have the power to provide these protections to your customers even before Congress acts,” Hawley said in the letter. “If your company is serious about protecting privacy, you should give your customers the power to block all companies from collecting or sharing any data that is not indispensable to the companies’ online services.”
The Missouri lawmaker’s broadside against Apple comes one day after reports emerged that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are preparing to open extensive antitrust investigations into Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
Cook has long sought to insulate Apple from the privacy and censorship complaints that have plagued other tech giants in recent years by emphasizing the differences between advertising-based social-media companies and Apple’s status as a maker of products. Asked about the threat of anti-trust regulations, Cook told CBS on Monday that the monopoly criticism does not apply to Apple.
“With size, I think scrutiny is fair. I think we should be scrutinized. But if you look at our — any kind of measure about ‘is Apple a monopoly or not,’ I don’t think anybody reasonable is gonna come to the conclusion that Apple’s a monopoly,” he said.