Apple Releases Letter Defending App Store, Rails Against App Sideloading

Apple has released a whitepaper describing the bad effects of sideloading and how the App Store is the best protection against them.

Apple on Wednesday began making its case to lawmakers on Capitol Hill that some provisions in a quintet of proposed new antitrust laws being considered in the US House of Representatives could have serious repercussions for its business by potentially outlawing its security practices on the iPhone and iPad.

In a statement published early Wednesday morning to its site, timed to follow political newsletters that arrive before most of us eat breakfast, Apple made its case for its App Store business model, where the company exercises tight control over how apps are bought and downloaded to its devices.

In the letter, Apple says legislation would “undermine consumers’ ability to choose products that offer state-of-the-art Privacy and Security.” Apple explains that Congress should not mandate that smartphones be “one-size-fits all” and that Apple offers an experience with the iPhone that is “uniquely suited to those who don’t want to balance risk every time they download an app.”

“The iPhone is uniquely suited to those who don’t want to balance risk every time they download an app,” Apple explains. “Some customers might want to do that, but Congress should not force that model on everyone. Legislation that would mandate that Apple allow sideloading would prevent Apple from continuing to offer consumers this more secure choice, reducing competition and decreasing consumer welfare.”

Opening up iOS to “sideloading”, the name for installing software from unapproved sources, could allow malicious software to hold user data to ransom, let children bypass parental controls, or lead to rampant piracy, the company claims.

The whitepaper also highlights the importance of the role of the App Store to protect your data and let you safely download apps. The company argues that the App Store is designed to block and detect attacks, but sideloading changes this threat model and allows attackers “more resources to develop sophisticated attacks.”

“With cyberattacks on the rise, Congress should consider measures to increase, not decrease, digital security,” Apple continues. “Today, if an app surreptitiously collects user data, Apple is able to take steps to address that behavior — whereas current proposals would tie Apple’s hands. Further, sideloaded apps can carry ransomware, or trick users into downloading fake versions of popular apps that can steal login credentials and spy on users. This legislation will make it easier for criminal actors to put iPhone users at risk.”

Addressing criticism that that Apple unfairly favors its own apps in the App Store, the company says it faces “strong competition from very successful developers in every category in which we offer our own apps.”

“We attract customers to the iPhone by continually improving its core features, including the App Store’s many offerings,” says Apple. “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.”

Read the entire letter here.