Cook told the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners on Wednesday that firstly, people should have the right to have data collected about them minimised.
In what appeared to be a reference to companies like Google and Facebook, which trade on personal information, he slammed what he described as the "data industrial complex", accusing it of surveillance.
"Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponised against us with military efficiency," Cook said. And he added, "We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them."
"These scraps of data… each one harmless enough on its own… are carefully assembled, synthesised, traded, and sold."
He said companies should challenge themselves to de-identify customer data — or not to collect it at all.
Users should also have the right to know what data was being collected and to what use it was being put, Cook argued. They should be allowed to access whatever data was collected and they should be assured that such data was held in a secure setup.
He praised the European Union for creating and putting in place the General Data Protection Regulation and outlined the ways Apple was looking after its users' privacy.
"Taken to its extreme, this [data collection] process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself," he pointed out.
"Your profile is then run through algorithms that can serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into hardened convictions. If green is your favourite colour, you may find yourself reading a lot of articles — or watching a lot of videos — about the insidious threat from people who like orange."