Apple thinks antitrust reform could create ‘race to the bottom’ for security

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Privacy
Apple says proposed antitrust regulation would endanger consumer privacy.
Photo: Apple

Apple thinks five pieces of antitrust reform legislation could undermine innovation and competition in tech, as well as creating a “race to the bottom” for security and privacy. Apple laid out its concerns in a letter sent ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of the House Judiciary Committee to discuss the proposed laws.

The letter — sent to chairmen Jerrold Nadler and David Cicilline, and ranking members Jim Jordan and Ken Buck — lays out Apple’s arguments for why the government needs to reconsider the five bills.

Sideloading’s bad, mmkay?

Apple takes issue with side-loading, the practice of allowing users to load apps onto their iPhones outside of the App Store. Apple says this would undermine iPhone security.

“The iPhone is uniquely suited to those who don’t want to balance risk every time they download an app,” writes Timothy Powderly, Apple’s senior director for government affairs, Americas. “Some customers might want to do that, but Congress should not force that model” on all users.

Similarly, Powderly writes that requiring Apple to provide developers all user data generated through apps represents a privacy risk. “Consumers have a right to control their data,” Powderly notes. “It is not Apple’s role to give away data to developers eager to monetize it.”

The letter points out that cyber attacks are on the rise. Congress, it argues, should therefore be looking to increase — not decrease — digital security. The letter says side-loaded apps can contain ransomware and other malware.

Apple doesn’t discriminate against developers

Apple also counters complaints that it favors its own products over those made by rivals.

“We support all developers, including those that compete with some Apple services, because innovation on the App Store is great for customers and attracts them to the iPhone,” Powderly writes. “The record of success on the App Store for third party apps speaks for itself. We have no incentive to discriminate against developers and broad mandates against disparate treatment of apps at all could skew the competitive landscape on the App Store.”

Customers love how Apple tech ‘just works’

Apple products work beautifully together. The Apple ecosystem comes with plenty of customer benefits, the letter says.

“Consumers choose Apple products in part because they like the seamless interoperability between the hardware and the software that are specifically designed to work together,” Powderly writes. “Moreover, Apple’s device-based business incentivizes it to create quality apps and set high app standards, increasing competition in down- stream markets. Overly broad prohibitions on vertical integration would also harm consumers. Such integration has greatly benefited device innovation, and it differentiates Apple from its many rivals in the smartphone market. The iPhone would not be the same product without integration of services, like iTunes, the App Store, or iMessage.”

Here’s the full letter Apple sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday:

Apple Letter to HJC June 22… by Chance Miller

Apple’s PR offensive

Apple’s currently on a PR offensive to shoot down antitrust legislation. After the possibility of regulation was raised, Apple CEO Tim Cook supposedly put in a personal call to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. However, she seemingly didn’t back down.

Also, in a letter sent Monday, a number of nonprofits — including the Apple-backed TechNet, the Consumer Technology Alliance, and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation — urged the House Judiciary Committee to reject the bills.

What do you think the end result should be of this antitrust scrutiny? Should Apple have to make any changes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.