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Apple CEO Tim Cook pushes for privacy legislation ‘as soon as possible’ after visit to Congress

Tim Cook speaks onstage at the TIME100 Summit 2022 at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Jemal Countess | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers should advance privacy legislation currently being debated “as soon as possible,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a letter to Congress on Friday.

Cook sent the letter a day after he appeared on Capitol Hill and met with legislators.

“We recognize that there are outstanding issues to be resolved, but the areas of agreement appear to far outweigh the differences,” Cook said in the letter, which was obtained by CNBC. “Your drafts would provide substantial protections for consumers, and we write to offer our strong support towards achieving this shared goal.”

Apple has long positioned itself as the most privacy-focused company among its tech peers, and Cook regularly addresses the issue in speeches and meetings. Apple says that its commitment to privacy is a deeply held value by its employees, and often invokes the phrase “privacy is a fundamental human right.”

It’s also strategic for Apple’s hardware business. Legislation that regulates how much data companies collect or how it’s processed plays into Apple’s current privacy features, and could even give Apple a head start against competitors that would need to rebuild their systems to comply with the law.

The Senate, meanwhile, is poised to debate a separate bill that Apple opposes. That legislation focuses on antitrust and would force Apple to allow users to install software from the web, which the company says would compromise iPhone security.

A few draft versions of the privacy legislation, American Data Privacy and Protection Act, are currently being considered by Congress.

The bill would give consumers protections and rights dealing with how their data is used online, and would require that companies minimize the amount of data they collect on their users.

One point being debated is whether the bill would carve out exceptions for states that already have a privacy law, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Another issue that business groups have with the legislation involves the right of individuals to sue over violations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, calling it “unworkable” after previously pressing congress to pass federal privacy rules to prevent a patchwork of state laws.

Apple has taken a different position, saying that any concerns about implementation details are outweighed by its support for federal privacy legislation. Cook said in a tweet last week that Apple supports the “strongest privacy bill possible.”

“We strongly urge you to advance comprehensive privacy legislation as soon as possible, and we stand ready to assist in this process in the days ahead,” Cook said in the letter.

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