Apple has faced criticism from lawmakers for several reasons recently, including its presence in China and its repair programs. Now, The Washington Post reports that Apple is being questioned for using its focus on user privacy as a “guise for anti-competitive behavior.”
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The concern comes from Congressman David N. Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who serves as chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee. Cicilline explained that he’s concerned about “the use of privacy as a shield for anticompetitive behavior.”
The lawmaker went on to explain that a “strong privacy law” in the United States would mean that companies like Apple would no longer have to regulate privacy themselves:
“I’m increasingly concerned about the use of privacy as a shield for anti-competitive conduct,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (R.I.), who serves as chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee. “There is a growing risk that without a strong privacy law in the United States, platforms will exploit their role as de facto private regulators by placing a thumb on the scale in their own favor.”
Cicilline’s concern was prompted by the changes Apple made to location services in iOS 13. Essentially, Apple has cracked down on the access that third-party applications have to a user’s location, and made more information about to users about when an app is using their location. Lawmakers are now concerned that Apple itself has access to additional location data that is not available to competitors.
One specific example cited in the article is Tile, which just so happens to come as Apple prepares to launch its own AirTag item trackers. The report explains that Tile can now longer ask permission for always-on location tracking, which hinders its ability to find items offline.
In a statement, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said that the company is working with developers who are affected by the new location services policy:
“We created the App Store with two goals in mind: that it be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers,. We continually work with developers and take their feedback on how to help protect user privacy while also providing the tools developers need to make the best app experiences.”
With that in mind, however, The Washington Post reports that House lawmakers have been meeting with Apple “partners” to discuss these concerns.
House lawmakers have been meeting with some of Apple’s partners to discuss their concerns, according to people who have knowledge of the meetings. These people said that one of the topics discussed was Apple’s practice of making changes to the rules that govern its App Store ecosystem in the name of privacy, while also tying the hands of competitors.
Apple is currently embroiled in a handful of different anti-trust cases around the world, including concerns around Apple Music, the App Store, and more. Today’s report from The Washington Post has additional details on the concerns over the new location privacy features.
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