Apple, Google Warn Senate Antitrust Legislation Would Harm User Privacy and Security

Apple and Google are pushing back against bipartisan antitrust bills currently tabled before the U.S. Senate (via Bloomberg).

The two tech giants warned senators that these bills, which seek to loosen their duopoly-like hold on smartphones and the tech space as a whole, could end up hurting the privacy and security of American users if passed into law.

In a Tuesday letter addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, the panel’s ranking Republican Chuck Grassley, Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Amy Klobuchar, and the subcommittee’s ranking Republican, Mike Lee, Apple highlighted that government-mandated changes to its App Store policies would weaken the oft-touted privacy and security of iPhones.

“After a tumultuous year that witnessed multiple controversies regarding social media, whistle-blower allegations of long-ignored risks to children, and ransomware attacks that hobbled critical infrastructure, it would be ironic if Congress responds by making it much harder to protect the privacy and security of Americans’ personal devices,” Tim Powderly, Apple’s Senior Director of Government Affairs, said in the letter.

“Unfortunately, that is what these bills would do.”

The first bill referenced in the letter, a proposal sponsored by Klobuchar and Grassley, would mandate some changes to dominant tech platforms that would include Apple having to allow iPhone and iPad users to install apps from sources other than the App Store, a process known as sideloading.

Apple has made its stance on sideloading abundantly clear, especially as of late. According to the Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker, allowing users to sideload apps would seriously undermine the iPhone’s security and open the flood gates to a malware “gold rush.”

When Apple used the same justification for its walled garden approach to the App Store last year during the EU’s ongoing antitrust case against the company, however, it was accused of using privacy and security to “shield against [the] competition.”

Google published a blog post of its own in opposition to the currently tabled bills, detailing the consequences of such legislation.

Where Apple’s letter focused mainly on user privacy and security, Google said legislative action will set leadership and innovation in tech back significantly, break features that are important and useful to consumers and small businesses, and unfairly benefit the competition, in addition to impairing Google’s ability to ensure user privacy and security.

Google also said the bills being reviewed by the senate stand to give regulatory authorities like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “unprecedented power over the design of consumer products.”