Google and Apple oppose bill that would change Gmail, Chrome and App Store – Legislation – Tecnoblog

As two antitrust bills approach approval by the US Senate Legal Committee, two of the world’s biggest tech companies, Apple and Google, have written notes opposing the proposals. One of them, the Open App Markets Act, affects the app stores of the two industry giants, while the American Innovation and Choice Online Act has a direct impact on Alphabet services, such as Gmail and Google Chrome.

App Store, Facebook and Google (image: Emerson Alecrim/Tecnoblog)

Congressional antitrust bills affect App Store

The US Congress is pondering two antitrust bills. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act prevents large technology companies from favoring their own services over others, while the Open App Markets App aims to foster a competitive environment within app marketplaces.

But the proposals have nudged Apple and Google; companies feel that Congress is threatening customers’ privacy and digital security, as well as American technological hegemony.

Tim Powderly, Apple’s Senior Director of Governance Affairs, sent a letter to lawmakers who make up the Legal Committee, including the committee’s chairman, Democrat Dick Durbin. In it, the executive says that the proposal that opens app stores would harm the App Store, since the measure would allow what is called “side-loading” — when users download programs from third-party sources.

Currently, one of Apple’s main arguments against side-loading is that apps available through alternative download sources do not meet the same security and privacy requirements as apps authorized by the creator of the App Store. They also do not need brand authorization to be downloaded.

Side-loading would circumvent Apple’s data collection and tracking transparency policy, which notifies users which data they prefer to be captured by the app.

Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized side-loading. According to him, the practice “would destroy the security of the iPhone and many of the privacy features that we put in the App Store, where we have a privacy table and tracking transparency policy for each app.”

Tim Cook at the Fortune CEO Initiative 2018 (image: Stuart Isset/Fortune)
Tim Cook at the Fortune CEO Initiative 2018 (Image: Stuart Isset/Fortune)

Now, Apple’s Senior Director of Governance Affairs has said the following in his letter forwarded to the US Congress:

“After a tumultuous year of various social media controversies, whistleblower allegations [como Frances Haughen, ex-Facebook] of largely ignored risks to children, and ransomware attacks that damaged key infrastructure, it would be ironic if Congress retaliated by making it harder for Americans to protect and privacy their personal devices. Unfortunately, that is what these laws will do.”

Apple has faced some lawsuits throughout the pandemic for its monopoly over the App Store: for each download or purchase of an app within the marketplace, the brand withholds a fee of 15% to 30% on the value. The only victory of Epic Games, creators of Fortnite, when suing the company was that the judge in the case ruled that Apple accept external means of payment within the App Store.

Google reacts to antitrust bills

Google has formulated its own response to the two antitrust bills pending in the US Senate. In a blogpost, the company argued that passing the proposals would prevent it from offering the “best services” to consumers. As Alphabet would be forced not to favor its own programs and apps, the company says people would be forced to use other products — which apparently don’t have the same quality.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the company says, would undermine browsing safety options such as Google SafeBrowsing and Gmail and Google Chrome’s spam filters, which block malware, viruses and unwanted pop-ups.

Google also claims that antitrust laws threaten “American leadership in the technology sector” because it would force Americans to use “lower versions of platforms like Google Maps, in addition to the search engine itself.”

Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Google, said in the official statement:

Google should eliminate third-party cookies only in 2023 (Image: Tati Tata/Flickr)
Google Chrome and Gmail would be threatened by US antitrust laws (Image: Tati Tata/Flickr)

“We believe that updating Technology regulation in areas such as Privacy, AI and protection for children and families could bring concrete benefits. But making our products unfeasible would not solve any of these issues. In fact, it would eliminate helpful resources, ultimately exposing people to security risks, and weakening US leadership in the industry.”

Like Apple, Google also charges a 15% to 30% fee on purchases and downloads from the Google Play Store. By charging this rate in its own app store, the company was the target of an antitrust lawsuit, filed by 36 US states. In this dispute, who was not left out was Epic Games, which also sued the company in 2020.

DuckDuckGo praises US Congressional laws

The world is not just made up of Google and Apple. Other companies and smaller app and software providers jointly wrote a letter in support of the US Congressional antitrust laws.

Wyze, Yelp, DuckDuckGo and the Tor Project wrote to the Legal Committee chairman asking him to vote “yes” to the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. Companies say big tech’s “gatekeeper” status has prevented competition based on meritocracy . The letter has the following excerpt:

“Dominant technology companies can: use manipulative design to turn people away from rival services; limit the ability of competitors to create cross-platform resources; and use non-public data for one’s own benefit. Finally, they can make it impossible, or very difficult, to change a device’s default settings or uninstall applications. These tactics not only harm competitors, but also prevent consumers from receiving innovative, market-diversifying products.”

The Senate Legal Committee is expected to review and vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act later this week.

With information: The Verge

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