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Apple and Google claim proposed antitrust bills would threaten user security

Both companies oppose the legislation on the grounds that it could threaten consumers by allowing malicious apps and services easier access to user devices.
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Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer on

Both Apple and Google have come out strongly against the possible adoption of a pair of antitrust bills currently being considered by US lawmakers. 

The proposed laws in question are the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act. Both pieces of legislation are set to be considered this week, and each threatens to force the two tech giants to comply with changes in US law surrounding app store exclusivity. 

Specifically, the bills contain language that would force Apple and Google to allow third-party alternatives into their respective walled garden mobile operating systems. While Google does not restrict the installation of third-party apps completely, it does typically disable the installation of apps from sources other than its Play Store until a security setting has been disabled by the user. Apple, meanwhile, forbids any "sideloading" of applications from sources aside from its own App Store

The bills would also require third-party billing options to be allowed within app stores like Google's and Apple's, a concession Apple has vigorously resisted in court before, much to the chagrin of Fortnite fans.

Both companies claim the changes that would be required of them would ultimately threaten user safety and security by allowing potentially malicious apps to be installed by unwitting users. Apple professed this stance in a letter sent directly to lawmakers, which was obtained by Bloomberg, while Google posted its stance in a public statement

Apple predicted the opening of third-party app sourcing options within iOS would cause "millions of Americans" to "likely suffer malware attacks on their phones that would otherwise have been stopped." Google expressed similar sentiments, while also lamenting what it claims would be a chilling effect on its ability to innovate in the mobile app space.

In a statement obtained by CNBC, a spokesperson for Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota and one of the authors of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, claimed that Apple's complaints were unfounded, saying its "arguments about 'sideloading' really amount to a desperate attempt to preserve their app store monopoly, which they use to charge huge fees from businesses they are competing against." 

Meanwhile, a letter supporting Senator Klobuchar's proposal was posted by a coalition of more than 40 tech companies, including privacy-focused organizations like DuckDuckGo and The Tor Project and recognizable online commerce entities like Yelp and Patreon

The bills are currently scheduled to be marked up by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. They will likely see amendments and alterations before potentially being passed on to a floor vote. Assuming they do make it to that point, they will likely face a long, arduous process due to the contentious legislative atmosphere the US currently sits under, and what is likely to be vigorous lobbying against them by tech giants like Google and Apple. 

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