- Cisco is stepping into the spotlight with a fervent call for federal privacy regulations.
- CEO Chuck Robbins echoed Apple CEO Tim Cook’s sentiments by calling privacy a fundamental human right.
- Cisco says it believes it needs to push on this issue because the company itself is a Silicon Valley rarity — a large tech company that doesn’t make money on ads.
- Robbins has actually been publicly in favor privacy regulation, even since before Europe’s landmark privacy regulation GDPR rolled out last year.
- As a maker of computer security products, privacy regulations are good for Cisco’s business.
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins is one-upping his business buddy Apple CEO Tim Cook, and officially calling for federal privacy legislation.
On Thursday the company released a press release, and its chief lawyer penned a blog post, calling for a new, comprehensive federal privacy law, and outlined what it wants that law to look like.
Robbins couched the call for regulation in terms of social justice, declaring that privacy is “a fundamental human right.”
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“Cisco calls for comprehensive and interoperable privacy legislation around the world that allows ethical movement of data between countries. Laws should be anchored to the core principles of security, transparency, fairness, and accountability,because privacy is a fundamental human right,” Robbins said in the press release (emphasis ours).
And Cisco’s chief lawyer, Mark Chandler, went on to explain that it was Cisco’s moral responsibility to push for this because Cisco doesn’t make its money on advertising. That’s a rarity in the world of giant tech companies.
“Enterprise-facing companies who do not monetize customer data through advertising, like Cisco, must work to ensure that our customers – and our customers’ customers – can trust the way data will be handled,” Chandler wrote.
Privacy issues in the limelight
Obviously, large internet tech companies have been in the line of fire over privacy for a while now, with Facebook the poster child for that push.
Facebook’s privacy troubles have been legendary since the company was founded. But lately it has had the Cambridge Analytical scandal, a massive data breach that exposed 50 million user accounts, revelations just last week that it violated an app distribution agreement with Apple so it could track teens’ internet usage.
Then there’s the ongoing mistrust over how Google tracks and collects user data. To a lesser extent, there are similar concerns over Twitter. Meanwhile, tech goliath Amazon is also growing outits advertising business. And companies like IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, all have advertising and marketing products. Some of them, like Oracle’s BlueKai, also collect data — even if they don’t sell consumer ads themselves.
Cisco has its reasons
Robbins has actually been talking about more privacy regulation for a while. In 2018, as GDPR rolled out, he said he thought more regulation was necessary and called on the tech industry to help educate regulators.
Even so, Cisco’s motives aren’t entirely altruistic. Underlying the lofty rhetoric is Cisco’s desire to have a healthy, growing business, free from lawsuits and potential regulatory fines.
The company is concerned that in America, privacy legislation is becoming a hodgepodge of state regulations. California recently passed its own data privacy law, slated to go into effect in 2020. Each state may follow suit, Chandler warns, making it a compliance nightmare for businesses.
And new regulations could be a boon to Cisco as well. Cisco is also one of the largest makers of computer security products. In January Cisco published a massive research report that concluded a company’s investments in privacy controls, or security products to protect data, are good for business. That makes sense. of course, as the alternative — security breaches — are clearly not good for business.
Chandler stopped short of saying that the US should adopt a replica of the GDPR. but he did imply it may be a good place to start writing that “the GDPR itself was built from a foundation of privacy principles that originate from those long documented in the US.”
Throughout 2018, Apple CEO Tim Cook has advocated for privacy regulations in various press interviews. Its marketing documents also say: “At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right.”
And there are other giant companies calling for regulation. Microsoft, for its part, is focusing on a different privacy nightmare by calling for regulation of facial recognition technology.
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