Customer data is being “weaponized with military efficiency” by companies to increase profit, according to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook. Speaking at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels, he called for a federal privacy law in the United States.

But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg disagreed. He said his company’s ad-based business model said users were aware of a trade-off for free services.

The Reuters news agency quoted Cook as saying: “Today that trade has exploded into a data industrial complex. Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency”.

“These scraps of data … each one harmless enough on its own … are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded, and sold,” he added. “We shouldn’t sugar-coat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them.”

In turn, Zuckerberg, speaking via video message, said: “Instead of charging people, we charge advertisers to show ads. People consistently tell us that they want a free service and that if they going to see ads to get it, then they want those ads to be relevant”.