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(Pocket-lint) - Apple chief Tim Cook took a pot shot at Facebook and other social networks, labelling them “purveyors of fake news and peddlers of division” during a prepared, passionate and clearly thought-out speech.

Cook made the remarks during a rare but short public (well, on YouTube) appearance to mark the opening of the annual Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference (CPDP) on World Privacy Day.


While Cook didn’t mention Facebook by name, it’s pretty clear who was the central target of his speech. “We're here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom,” he said.

“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise it deserves reform.

“We should not look away from the bigger picture and a more of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology [that] all engagement is good engagement, the longer the better. And we can all go collecting as much data as possible.

“Too many are still asking the question much can we get away with when they need to be asking ‘what are the consequences?’ What are the consequences of prioritising conspiracy theories and violence? What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?

“What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users joining extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more. It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn't come with a cost. Of polarisation, of lost trust and yes, of violence.

“The fact is that an interconnected ecosystem of companies, of data brokers, of purveyors of fake news and peddlers of division, of trackers and hucksters just looking to make a quick buck is more present in our lives than it has ever been.”

The remarks come a day after Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took the opportunity on yesterday’s Facebook earnings call to call out Apple by name because of its increased privacy restrictions for apps in iOS 14.  Zuckerberg said: “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own…

"Apple may say that they're doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track their competitive interests.

"I think that this dynamic is important for people to understand because we and others are going to be up against this for the foreseeable future.”

Cook appeared at the CPDP conference partly because of his personal connection to late European head of data protection Giovanni Buttarelli, who he mentioned in his remarks. Buttarelli was the driving force behind the EU General Daa Protection Regulation (GDPR).

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Writing by Dan Grabham.