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Amid Facebook data scandal, Apple CEO Cook talks up regulation

Tim Cook says the situation around the collection and use of people's data is "dire" and that "well-crafted" rules are probably needed.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook: "The ability of anyone to know what you've been browsing about for years ... shouldn't exist."
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

As Facebook does damage control amid the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and politicians call for regulation of social media, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Saturday that "well-crafted" rules may well be needed.

"I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary," Cook said in response to a question about the scandal and potential data restrictions, according to Bloomberg. "The ability of anyone to know what you've been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life -- from my own point of view it shouldn't exist."

Cook made the comment at a session on global inequality at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that he was open to some sort of regulation following news that information from millions of accounts on the social network was used without people's permission by Cambridge Analytica, a digital consultancy hired by the Trump presidential campaign.

US Sen. Amy Klobucher and others have responded to the scandal with renewed calls for oversight, saying it's apparent platforms like Facebook can't police themselves. On Friday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent Zuckerberg a letter urging him to testify on Capitol Hill as part of an upcoming congressional hearing into the incident and data collection.

Cook said Apple has long been concerned about data mishaps of this sort.

"We've worried for a number of years that people in many countries were giving up data probably without knowing fully what they were doing and that these detailed profiles that were being built of them, that one day something would occur and people would be incredibly offended by what had been done without them being aware of it," he said, according to Bloomberg. "Unfortunately that prediction has come true more than once."

Apple has become a big proponent for user privacy in the past several years. Cook has even warned, in multiple interviews, about the dangers of social media and other free online services. In a 2014 interview with Charlie Rose, Cook said that "everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? … If they're making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what's happening to that data. And companies, I think, should be very transparent about it."

Apple has, however, offered apps that were tied to Facebook and required access to certain friend information. Its integration with Facebook ended in 2016, and Apple says the information was never sent to an Apple server or iCloud but was stored only on the user's device to make certain tasks easier.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment on Cook's Saturday remarks.

CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

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