Yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook published an op-ed in Time advocating for real and strict data privacy protections. In the essay, Cook specifically focused on the invisible parts of the data economy–brokers that buy and sell people’s digital information. These firms include Experian and Oracle.
Acxiom, one of the largest of these brokers, was asked about Cook’s article. The company, in a statement to Business Insider, said it agreed with his sentiments.
“Acxiom, like Mr. Cook, also supports a national privacy law for the U.S., such as GDPR provides for the European Union. Acxiom is actively participating in discussions with U.S. lawmakers as well as industry trade groups to help ensure U.S. consumers receive the kind of transparency, access, and control Acxiom has been providing voluntarily for years,” the company said. “We believe it would be universally beneficial if we were able to work with Apple and other industry leaders to define the best set of laws that maintain the benefits of data in our economy while giving the necessary protections and rights to all people.”
In its statement, Acxiom said it is working with lawmakers to build a “singular, united set of policies across the U.S.” What it does not want, according to the statement, are “multiple and independent state laws” making it onerous to comply.
Of course, it behooves Acxiom to seem amenable to such legislative moves. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the tide is shifting in the U.S., and more people want better safeguards over their data. Cook called for not just stricter data regulations, but a federally controlled data broker database that would make it possible for citizens to know exactly what information the companies have on them and which companies transacted with these data firms. While Acxiom is saying it’s open to new regulation, it’s unclear what exactly the firm will agree to.
There’s of course the other irony that Apple makes a lot of money by helping propel this shady data-sharing industry. As my colleague Mark Sullivan wrote, “Apple’s business isn’t completely removed from the personal data economy.” For example, Google pays Apple billions of dollars every year so that it can continue to be iOS’s default search engine. And what does Google do when you search with it? Collect your data.
Which is to say that Apple and Acxiom are certainly capitalizing on a moment when businesses should at least seem proactive about data rights. We’ll have to wait and see if their actions match their words.