Senators Say Apple 'Terrified' of Competition Bipartisan Bill Would Bring A new Apple store in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. (Getty Images)
By Charles Kim | Friday, 15 April 2022 04:18 PM
U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Ky., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are taking issue with comments earlier this week from Apple CEO Tim Cook opposing the bipartisan Open App Markets Act that would severely limit the proprietary app stores on both Apple and Google and allow users to use third-party outlets instead.
"Tim Cook seems terrified of increased competition, and Apple does not want Americans to have the option to circumvent their App Store monopoly," the senators said in a joint statement Friday. "We fully agree with the need for comprehensive privacy legislation and have been actively discussing this with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. However, it misses the mark to say we can't have both consumer privacy and competition in the app marketplace. As passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Open App Markets Act acknowledges this balance. Suggesting otherwise is a scare tactic to justify closing markets off to competition."
On Tuesday, Cook said the act would allow app distributors to "circumvent" the vetting done by Apple and on the Android Google Play stores to ensure user confidence and retain their privacy with app purchases.
"Here in Washington and elsewhere, policymakers are taking steps in the name of competition that would force Apple to let apps on the iPhone that circumvent the App Store through a process called sideloading," CNBC reported Cook saying in a speech at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit Tuesday. "That means data-hungry companies would be able to avoid our privacy rules, and once again track our users against their will."
Cook said his concern is that the "sideloading" of apps, defined by PC Magazine as a process where users can copy app files from an online storage service, or transfer downloaded files from a computer to a mobile device, could allow for users to be tricked into installing malware, or software that steals user data, according to the CNBC report.
Cook said the Google Play app store for Android devices does allow some sideloading and pointed to reports of malicious apps on that service as a reason for concern.
"(Sideloading) would also potentially give bad actors a way around the comprehensive security protections we put in place," Cook said Tuesday, according to the report.
According to the legislation, "the bill prohibits a covered company from (1) requiring developers to use an in-app payment system owned or controlled by the company as a condition of distribution or accessibility, (2) requiring that pricing or conditions of sale be equal to or more favorable on its app store than another app store, or (3) taking punitive action against a developer for using or offering different pricing terms or conditions of sale through another in-app payment system or on another app store."
It also prevents "covered companies" like Google and Apple with more than 50 million users in the United States from "interfering" in "legitimate business communications" between developers and users, using any "non-public" business information obtained by an app to compete with it, or "unreasonably" ranking or favoring its own apps, or business partner apps, over others.