Just earlier today, a report detailed how Apple CEO Tim Cook has been personally lobbying members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as antitrust legislation looms in the United States. Now, Apple has fired back in a new letter sent to Senators Dick Durbin, Amy Klobuchar, and Mike Lee, saying that the proposed changes would undermine user security and privacy in multiple ways.
In the letter, which was obtained by 9to5Mac, Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Americas, Timothy Powderly, strongly voices opposition to the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, as well the Open App Markets Act. Powderly writes that Apple remains concerned that these bills will “hurt competition and discourage innovation” and do “real harm” towards “American consumers’ privacy and security.”
The letter reads:
After a tumultuous year that witnessed multiple controversies regarding social media, whistleblower 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. Unfortunately, that is what these bills would do.
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.
As we reported this morning, the Open Markets Act has progressed to committee stage – the next step toward becoming law. The Open Markets Act would force radical changes to the App Store, including allowing third-party app stores and other payment solutions.
In the letter, Apple says that a combination of “advanced technology and human review” makes the App Store “dramatically more secure” than other solutions. Opening the iPhone up to third-party app stores as well as sideloading would undermine these security protections, Apple says:
Through a combination of advanced technology and human review, the App Store is dramatically more secure than systems offering non-centralized, open distribution, including our own MacOS. In fact, iOS has al- most 98% less malware than Android. As shown by independent, third-party security analyses—like the Nokia 2021 Threat Intelligence Report—forcing iPhones to allow sideloading could lead to hundreds of thousands of additional mobile malware infections per month.
This sideloading threat is even greater when it comes to malicious actors. Some have dismissed this risk, pointing to competing platforms that permit sideloading and arguing that the “sky has not fallen.” But, if Apple is forced to enable sideloading, millions of Americans will likely suffer malware attacks on their phones that would otherwise have been stopped.
This increased risk is not primarily because consumers will knowingly choose to accept the risk and download questionable apps; it is because, without a centralized vetting mechanism like the App Store, many consumers will be deceived into in- stalling unwanted malicious software on their devices. This is why cybersecurity ex- perts, including those at the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies, routinely recommend prohibiting sideloading as a best practice. Accordingly, the bills should be modified to reduce or eliminate the threat of sideloaded malware, rather than increasing this risk as they do now.
Apple calls on legislators to not pass either of these pieces of legislation in their current forms. Instead, it says that these bills should be “modified to strengthen consumer welfare, especially with regard to consumer protection in the areas of privacy and security.”
You can find the full letter from Apple’s Timothy Powderly below. What do you think of the company’s argument? Let us know down in the comments.
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