Apple, Facebook, Google Will Convene This Week Over User Privacy Concerns

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A group of high-profile tech giants will meet this week to discuss “growing questions and concerns” about online privacy.

Members of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a trade group representing major tech firms, will convene this Wednesday, June 27 in San Francisco, according to a report by Axios.

The ITI is made up of high-profile players across the tech industry’s sectors, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, and others. While at least some of those firms are expected to be in attendance, the ITI has not confirmed which companies will be present at the meeting.

The ITI’s CEO, Dean Garfield, told Axois that the meeting comes in the wake of a “new sense of urgency around consumer privacy” — presumably in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

While Garfield said that privacy has always been a “foundational principle” among tech firms, he added that the “question of how do you give meaning to it and talk about it in a way that resonates is now something that’s more pressing.”

On the other hand, Garfield added that the meeting was not a “direct result” of rumors of the Trump administration discussing a U.S. “counter-weight” to the GDPR. In addition, the executive cautioned against thinking a carbon copy of the GDPR would be the best route.

“Just because Europe has taken a comprehensive approach doesn’t mean our different approach is deficient,” Garfield said. “And just because Europe is early doesn’t mean it’s best or final. But we should always be thinking about how we evolve to make sure consumers have trust in our products.”

Apple, of course, has long been a vanguard of consumer privacy in the technology industry. Its business model relies on selling products, rather than collecting or leveraging user data.

Likely because of that, Apple has made the privacy and security of its products and services a priority — from baking encryption into its iPhones to recently barring apps from collecting data on a user’s friends.

And even though the GDPR doesn’t apply to users living outside of the European Union, Apple has already announced plans to roll out its GDPR-compliant privacy website globally in the coming months. All in all, Apple’s commitment to privacy stands in stark contrast to the data policies of firms like Google and Facebook.

Axios notes that it likely will be “very difficult” for the ITI to come to a consensus on privacy, owing to the diverse nature of the attendees. More than that, the process of enshrining pro-privacy elements in data policies and regaining user trust could take many more weeks or months.

As evidence of that, earlier this month it was reported that a bevy of tech juggernauts had contributed substantial amounts of money to a group campaigning against a GDPR-like privacy initiative in California.

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