The Tide Against Big Tech is about to write one of its most important chapters. This week, a bill was introduced that would effectively ban the App Store in its current form, unsurprisingly. Legislation that has little chance of being passed, but which also hides a real backdoor that would make it useless.
Epic’s Letter to the Magi vs. the App Store
Promote competition and reduce the power of platform owners in the app industry, increase choice, improve quality and reduce costs for consumers.
This is the brief introduction with which the so-called Open App Markets Act or Open App Markets Act is presented. It will apply to any business that has more than 50 million users in the United States, referred to as “Covered Businesses” (a platform). In practice, it is a law that seeks to ban the Apple App Store as we know it, even if this would also partly affect that of Google. For now, this is a proposal that has yet to be approved by majority vote in the US Congress and later in the Senate. Something that does not seem guaranteed at the moment.
We are still faced with a bill that must be passed by Congress and the Senate, support that is still in the air.
In any case, this law compiles all the requests made by companies during the big tech survey last year. And they result in the following bans on app stores:
Use an integrated payment system belonging to the Platform as a condition for the distribution of the application. Demand a price equal to or lower than that found for the app on other distribution sites. Harm a developer in any way by using another form of payment in the app or in another App Store. Prevent communication with the user of better offers in other places or platforms. Use data from third-party app distribution to build your own app or service.
Additionally, it forces app stores to do the following:
Allow the choice of default apps or app stores. Install third-party apps or App Stores. Remove or remove preinstalled apps or app stores.
In short, we cannot say that lawmakers have not paid attention to companies like Spotify, Epic or Tile. Quite the contrary. Here we find a fully satisfied wishlist. That is, if not for section 4 found in the same proposal.
Article 4 and the privacy and security exception
If we go deeper into this legislative proposal, we will come across the curious section 4, whose title is “Protection of the security and privacy of users”. It is specified that “the Platform will not violate” this law as long as an action consists of:
Protect privacy, security or digital security. Avoid spam or fraud. Obey or avoid breaking any federal or state law.
A series of requirements are listed below, the intention of which is to ensure that the application of these exceptions is not arbitrary but consistent for all developers. Indeed, this section gives Apple the possibility of continuing to manage its App Store in the current way. It’s a kind of amendment that completely changes the desired outcome, which doesn’t surprise us if we look at how the big tech investigation went: the app store on tip-toe-toe-toe eyes. legislators.
As we said a few months ago, allowing the installation of apps outside of the App Store poses a security, privacy and fraud risk. Demonstrating this shouldn’t involve a big effort for Apple, since it has already published a report on the role of the App Store and its protective measures for the user, attacking so-called sideloading and third-party stores. The result of what the company exposes would put users in a more vulnerable position than the current one.
We will have to wait for what will happen in the coming weeks with this proposal. We’ll see if it’s approved or ultimately rejected and what happens next.