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Senate bills will do real harm to consumer privacy & security, Apple argues

US Capitol building

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Apple has sent a letter to U.S. lawmakers strongly voicing its opposition to several antitrust bills, claiming that the proposed acts would hurt competition, stifle innovation, and harm consumer privacy and security.

In the letter, which was obtained by AppleInsider, Apple criticizes both the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act, two pieces of legislation that seek to rein in the power of tech giants and online app marketplaces. The letter, dated Jan. 18, was sent to several members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, including Sens. Dick Durbin, Chuck Grassley, Amy Klobuchar, and Mike Lee.

While the two bills would harm competition and innovation, the "most serious issue" with the proposed acts would be the harm they would do to Americans' security and privacy, wrote Timothy Powderly, Apple's Senior Director of Government Affairs and the author of the letter.

"These bills will reward those who have been irresponsible with users' data and empower bad actors who would target consumers with malware, ransomware, and scams," Powderly wrote.

For example, Apple takes issue with requirements in the bills that would force companies to prove that privacy or security protections were "necessary" and "narrowly tailored." The letter calls this a "nearly insurmountable test."

Additionally, Powderly also goes after the requirement to allow consumers to download apps from outside of official app stores — known as side-loading. As Apple has argued before, this would "eliminate [the] choice" of having safe apps and would empower cybercriminals.

"Some have dismissed the risk, pointing to competing platforms that permit sideloading and arguing that the 'sky has not fallen'," Powderly wrote. "But, if Apple is force to enable sideloading, millions of Americans will likely suffer malware attacks on their phones that would otherwise have been stopped."

To that end, Apple also repeated its claims that it stopped more than $1 billion worth of fraudulent transactions.

Government regulators should not ignore the benefits consumers receive from Apple, including protection from online predators and scammers. In 2020 alone, Apple protected users from more than $1.5 billion in potentially fraudulent transactions. Every day, our team blocks apps that are incomplete or misleading, collect more user data than they need, or otherwise try to trick unsuspecting users. Our efforts are not perfect, but they provide significant consumer benefits. And this security is also a boon to competition. Our rigorous app review guidelines create a secure space for users to explore nearly 1.8 million apps, with more than 100,000 new submissions each week.

In other portions of the letter, Apple touts the trustworthiness, privacy, and security of the App Store, stating that the marketplace is good for consumers and "great for developers."

"Because consumers have come to trust and rely on Apple's App Store for this protection, software developers also receive an extraordinary benefit: they don't have to worry about whether the iOS users they want to become customers will trust them enough to download their apps," the lette reads. "Because Apple has built an inherently trustworthy and protected marketplace, consumers freely download whatever apps are in the store based solely on whether they think they will be useful or fun."

It also highlights the "overwhelmingly positive" consumer response to its App Tracking Transparency feature, which it says would be gutted by the bills.

Apple says it does agree with assessing regulatory frameworks in the tech sector and would like to continue working with lawmakers on "workable solutions." However, it strongly urges the Judiciary Committee not to approve either bill.