Internet, AI must have security, privacy

Beijing - Apple chief executive Tim Cook has called for future internet and AI technologies to be infused with privacy, security and humanity.

Cook made the comments on Sunday at the opening ceremony for China’s World Internet Conference - an event designed to globally promote the country’s vision of a more censored and controlled internet.

It’s the second Chinese appearance in two months for the executive, who met with President Xi Jinping in October.

“The theme of this conference - developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits - is a vision we at Apple share,” Cook said. “We are proud to have worked alongside many of our partners in China to help build a community that will join a common future in cyberspace."

Cook’s comments come at a pivotal point for the company’s future in China, which is now its biggest market outside of North America.

It relies on the sale of hardware and services in the world’s most populated country to propel revenue and profit growth. But the efforts required to stay in China’s good graces are causing tensions with civil libertarians and politicians at home.

He said Apple’s operations in the country began three decades ago with a handful of employees. Today, it helps support more than 5 million jobs in China, including 1.8 million local mobile app developers, he added.

Under fire

Apple has come under fire for co-operating with Chinese authorities in removing apps that give users there uncensored communications.

In November, Apple complied with government orders to pull Microsoft's Skype phone and video service from the Chinese version of its popular app store. Cook used an earnings call with investors to justify such moves, saying it obeyed the laws of the markets where it operates.

“Much has been said of the potential downsides of AI, but I don’t worry about machines thinking like humans. I worry about people thinking like machines,” he said. “We all have to work to infuse technology with humanity, with our values.”

Technology of the future should have openness, creativity and safeguards to protect users while providing privacy and decency, he added.

It’s a goal that, according to Cook’s Chinese hosts, can only be accomplished through more laws and regulations that control what can be shared online. Politburo member Wang Huning called for a global emergency response team that would respond in times of crisis using new and undetermined measures.

New order

“What we propose is we should promote a controllable security and build a new order,” Wang said through a translator. “Cybersecurity is a serious challenge. Cyber crimes and cyber terrorism has grown more rampant. The world’s destiny has become more intertwined in cyberspace.”

Unlike Apple’s Cook, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai did not deliver a keynote speech and was instead on a panel to discuss the digital economy. Confusion among some of the conference staff on the ground meant many didn’t know when the session would begin - much of the vast hall remained empty partway through the session.

Wuzhen holds special significance for the search giant, whose AI program defeated the world’s top-ranked player of the ancient board-game Go at the same venue earlier this year - a point Pichai alluded to as he promoted the company’s kit of AI software tools called TensorFlow.

“There are many small and medium businesses in China who take advantage of Google to get their products to many other countries outside of China,” he said.

“Technology is giving opportunities at a global scale, driving interconnectedness and co-operation and I think it’s a big trend and I think it’s almost irreversible at this point.”

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER

ZAR/USD
17.44
(-0.15)
ZAR/GBP
22.81
(-0.16)
ZAR/EUR
20.62
(-0.18)
ZAR/AUD
12.52
(-0.10)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(-0.16)
Gold
1927.40
(+0.29)
Silver
25.83
(+0.77)
Platinum
931.50
(+0.32)
Brent Crude
45.32
(+2.09)
Palladium
2165.24
(+1.98)
All Share
57417.28
(+0.44)
Top 40
53126.54
(+0.56)
Financial 15
10139.85
(-0.74)
Industrial 25
76210.18
(+0.91)
Resource 10
58992.57
(+0.54)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Do you think it was a good idea for the government to approach the IMF for a $4.3 billion loan to fight Covid-19?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes. We need the money.
11% - 976 votes
It depends on how the funds are used.
74% - 6483 votes
No. We should have gotten the loan elsewhere.
15% - 1344 votes
Vote