How is your knowledge of history?
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
In other words, we must learn from history to avoid the same mistakes history records. My history classes from decades past taught me about the so-called military-industrial complex. Former President Dwight Eisenhower:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.
That was then and this is now. We live in the information age. Or, rather, the misinformation age; an era long the human timeline whereby citizens of the planet are under siege from hidden forces which seek to weaponize private information for the benefit of a few.
Apple CEO Tim Cook described a new age problem; the “data-industrial complex“:
Our own information is being weaponized against us with military efficiency… We shouldn’t sugar-coat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data only serve to enrich the companies that collect them.
If that sounds like a broadside attack against Google, Facebook, Amazon, and governments, it is.
This crisis is real. It is not imagined. Or exaggerated. Or crazy. And those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not shrink from this moment… Now more than ever, as leaders of governments, as decision makers in business and as citizens, we must ask ourselves a fundamental question. What kind of world do we want to live in?
Twitter hosts a summary of Cook’s missive on the data-industrial complex. Clearly, Apple sees privacy and security as a distinct differentiator of its products vs. those from Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others who weaponize information that is then used against their users and customers.
Apple can do more.
First, get rid of Google as the default search engine in Safari. Second, encrypt all information between Apple customers and iCloud. Third, add options to iOS and macOS that prevent third party tracking entirely. Not every customer will use it, but those who understand the implications will appreciate that Apple gives them the tools to fight back.
Finally, the company has the resources to build an Apple-branded virtual private network system (VPN) that also shields customers from private information trackers.
Cook’s words are worthy but actions should match. They do not.