- Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at a privacy conference on Tuesday about potential new antitrust laws.
- The laws may force Apple to let users download apps from places other than the App Store, Cook said.
- Cook said those laws could weaken privacy and security for iPhone users.
Apple CEO Tim Cook warned lawmakers on Tuesday that legislative attempts to crack open Apple’s walled garden could have “unintended consequences” for people’s privacy.
“We are deeply concerned about regulations that would undermine privacy and security in service of some other aim,” Cook said during a speech at the International Association of Privacy Professionals conference.
“In Washington and elsewhere, policymakers are taking steps in the name of competition that would force Apple to let apps onto iPhone that circumvent the App Store through a process called sideloading,” Cook said.
Currently, iPhone users cannot sideload any apps onto their device. So for example, they can’t download an app to iPhone from a website on a browser.
Cook said enabling sideloading on iPhones would mean “data-hungry companies would be able to avoid our privacy rules and once again track our users against their will.”
He also said it would mean weaker security for users, as bad actors could also circumvent the App Store’s vetting process.
“Proponents of these regulations argue that no harm would be done by simply giving people a choice but taking away a more secure option will leave users with less choice,” he said.
“If we are forced to let unvetted apps onto iPhone the unintended consequences will be profound,” he added.
Cook did not specifically name any policymakers or prospective laws but a US bill introduced in August called the Open App Markets Act specifically targets Apple and Google’s App Stores. If it passes, the law would force the companies to allow sideloading.
Developers have complained about the degree of control Apple exerts over its App Store, saying it amounts to anti-competitive conduct. Fortnite maker Epic Games sued Apple in August 2020 over its requirement that developers use its payment system for in-app transactions, which levies a 15% to 30% charge on payments.
Spotify filed an official antitrust complaint with the European Union in March 2019, saying that the charge meant it had to raise prices while also facing direct competition from Apple, which has its own music-
platform, Apple Music.
The EU reached its preliminary conclusion in April 2021 that Apple’s rules did indeed breach European competition law.