As the Senate Judiciary Committee pushes to pass legislation that could loosen Big Tech’s hold on consumers, Big Tech is expected to be outraged. Both Apple and Google have publicly written letters against new legislation, while a coalition of smaller tech companies have expressed their support.
The outcry comes in response to two bills: The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which prevents Big Tech from favoring their services over others, and the Open App Markets Act, which aims to promote competition in app stores.
Apple’s senior director of government affairs, Tim Powderly, has written a letter, viewed by: Bloomberg, to Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Antitrust Subcommittee Chair, Panel-Ranked Republican Chuck Grassley (R- IA), and Republican in the rankings of the subcommittee, Mike Lee (R-UT), criticized the legislation. Powderly says the bills, especially the Open App Markets Act, would be detrimental to the security of the App Store because it would allow users to sideload apps, otherwise known as downloading an app from an outside source. Since these apps exist outside the Apple ecosystem, they are not subject to the same safety and security standards what apps must meet to earn a spot in the App Store.
“After a tumultuous year of multiple social media controversies, whistleblower accusations of long-ignored risks to children, and ransomware attacks that have hampered critical infrastructure, it would be ironic if Congress responded by making it much harder to protect privacy and security. security of Americans’ personal devices,” writes Powderly. “Unfortunately, that’s what these bills would do.”
Downloading an app from outside the App Store wouldn’t subject them to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy, which allows users to choose the types of data (if any) that apps are allowed to track. Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: sideloading “would destroy the security of the iPhone and many of the privacy initiatives that we have built into the App Store, where we have privacy food labels and transparency for app tracking, where it forces people to get permission to track apps.” Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi has also spoken out against sideloading, saying it “undermines security and puts people’s data at risk.”
It’s also worth noting that Apple currently collects a 15 to 30 percent commission on all in-app purchases for apps downloaded from the App Store. The company prevents developers from using alternative payment processors for this reason, which is the prevailing problem behind the Epic v. Apple case. Apple recently admitted to the Dutch government that dating app developers are allowed to include other payment options, but the company says it will still charge a commission from those purchases, and it’s unclear how much that commission will be.
In his own messageGoogle has filed a similar case against the “legislation debated in the House and Senate,” arguing that it would be unable to provide the “best” services to consumers if the antitrust laws are passed. Since the US Innovation and Choice Online Act would prevent Google from prioritizing its own services over others, the company claims it may not be able to provide consumers with the best online experience because users can be influenced by other apps that apparently don’t. are. as good as Google’s.
The company says the legislation could harm “US technology leadership” by giving Americans “worse, less relevant, and less useful versions of products like Google Search and Maps.” Google also claims it would prevent the company from integrating standard security features into its apps and services, such as the SafeBrowsing service and spam filters in Gmail and Chrome, which block pop-ups, viruses and malware.
“We believe that updating technology regulations in areas such as privacy, AI and protection can bring real benefits to children and families. But breaking our products won’t solve any of these problems,” explains Kent Walker, the president of global affairs and chief legal officer at Google and Alphabet. “Instead, it would eliminate useful features, expose people to new privacy and security threats, and weaken America’s technology leadership.”
Like Apple, Google charges developers a 15 to 30 percent commission on apps and in-app purchases. Dozens of states filed lawsuits against the company last year, alleging the practice violated antitrust policy. Epic Games also sued Google in 2020, claiming that the company’s payment restrictions on the Play Store constitute a monopoly.
But there are several other voices, albeit slightly smaller than Apple and Google, expressing support for the legislation. Companies such as Wyze, Yelp, DuckDuckGo and the Tor project, posted a letter urged Chairman Durbin and Republican Grassley to vote “yes” to the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. The companies say Big Tech’s dominance and “gatekeeper status” has prevented them “from competing on earnings”.
“Dominant tech firms can: use manipulative design tactics to divert individuals away from competing services; limit competitors’ ability to collaborate on the platform; use non-public data for the benefit of the companies’ own services or products; make it impossible or complicated for users to change their default settings or services or remove apps,” the letter reads. “These tactics not only hurt competition, but also rob consumers of the innovative offerings that would make for a vibrant market.”
Last year, the House Judiciary Committee passed a package of six similar antitrust laws, none of which have become law. The Senate Judiciary Committee will review the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online act later this week.