EU Tech Chief Cautions Apple Against Using Privacy as an Excuse To Fend off Competition

BY Mahit Huilgol

Published 2 Jul 2021

Apple Store Logo

Apple is currently being investigated under antitrust laws. The company’s troubles with regulatory authorities only seems to be mounting. EU Tech Chief, Margrethe Vestager has warned Apple against curtailing competition in the name of privacy. The statement is a reaction to Tim Cook, who termed sideloading as a major potential security risk. Apple was questioned on why it doesn’t allow users to install apps from outside the App Store.

Apple rakes in a considerable revenue from the App Store fees. Last year, Vestager proposed a set of rules under a collective Digital Markets Act. Once accepted, it would force Apple to open up their App Store and allow users to sideload or download apps from other sources. Tim Cook opposed the proposal and said it would “spur a flood of new investment into attacks on the platform.” Cook cited a Threat Intelligence Report from Nokia that found “Android had 15 times more infections from malicious software than iPhone”. Furthermore, he blamed the infections on sideloading of apps on Android.

Meanwhile, Vestager says she is open to changes in the proposal,

I think privacy and security are of paramount importance to everyone, The important thing here is, of course, that it’s not a shield against competition, because I think customers will not give up neither security nor privacy if they use another app store or if they sideload.

Digital Markets Act Proposal

Currently, the Digital Markets Act is in the proposal stage. It requires inputs from EU countries and EU lawmakers to become a law. Vestager was part of an investigation into Google’s plan to ban “cookies.” The investigations into Alphabet’s digital advertising vertical have already begun. Apple introduced new privacy feature on iOS 14 that ask for users’ permission for cross-tracking apps. The move has deeply impacted digital advertising industry. Many allege that Apple’s new privacy feature is aimed at eradicating competition’s business model.

The EU Tech Chief adds that Apple did the right thing in offering customers a choice to be tracked. She says, “I think actually several times, that it is a good thing when providers give us the service that we can easily set our preferences if we want to be tracked outside the use of an app or not as long as it’s the same condition for everyone.” Apple is yet to issue an response.

[via Reuters]