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Apple CEO Cook pushes for privacy legislation after Congress visit

Tim Cook speaks onstage at the 2022 TIME100 Summit at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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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 points of agreement appear to far outweigh the differences,” Cook said in the letter, which was obtained by CNBC. “Your drafts would provide substantial consumer protections, and we are writing to offer our strong support in achieving this common 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 its commitment to privacy is a value deeply held by its employees and often invokes the phrase “privacy is a basic human right”.

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

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

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

The bill would give consumers protections and rights regarding how their data is used online, and would require companies to minimize the amount of data they collect about their users.

One point under debate is whether the bill would provide exceptions for states that already have privacy law, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Another issue that business groups have with legislation concerns the right of individuals to sue for violations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill, calling it “unenforceable” after previously urging Congress to pass federal privacy rules to prevent a patchwork of state laws.

Apple took a different stance, saying 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 you in this process in the days ahead,” Cook said in the letter.

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