Technology

What's Up With Apple: US Senate Takes Aim at App Store, New macOS Update, and More

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Wednesday introduced the Open App Markets Act to “promote competition and reduce gatekeeper power in the app economy, increase choice, improve quality, and reduce costs for consumers.”

If it appears that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Alphabet/Google are the targets of the legislation, that’s because the second sentence of the press release announcing the bill makes the targets clear:

Two companies, Google and Apple, have gatekeeper control of the two dominant mobile operating systems and their app stores that allow them to exclusively dictate the terms of the app market, inhibiting competition and restricting consumer choice.

Blumenthal commented:

For years, Apple and Google have squashed competitors and kept consumers in the dark—pocketing hefty windfalls while acting as supposedly benevolent gatekeepers of this multi-billion dollar market.

Blackburn elaborated: “Apple and Google want to prevent developers and consumers from using third-party app stores that would threaten their bottom line.”

And Klobuchar summed it up: “By establishing new rules for app stores, this legislation levels the playing field and is an important step forward in ensuring an innovative and competitive app marketplace.”

In a statement to The Verge, Apple responded:

Since our founding, we’ve always put our users at the center of everything we do, and the App Store is the cornerstone of our work to connect developers and customers in a way that is safe and trustworthy. At Apple, our focus is on maintaining an App Store where people can have confidence that every app must meet our rigorous guidelines and their privacy and security is protected.

Apple has released a macOS 11.5.2 update just a couple of weeks after an 11.5.1 update. It’s not entirely clear what the latest update does. According to 9to5Mac, Apple says only that it includes bug fixes.

On a different front, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a more detailed version of its opposition to Apple’s new program for scanning child abuse material. The EFF is concerned that by opening a backdoor into peoples’ iPhones, Apple will come under pressure (and ultimately give in to that pressure) from governments.

An example is the Five Eyes group, an alliance of the intelligence services of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that already has threatened to seek “lawful access solutions” if companies don’t willingly give access to encrypted material. The EFF notes:

More recently, the Five Eyes have pivoted from terrorism to the prevention of CSAM [child sexual abuse material] as the justification, but the demand for unencrypted access remains the same, and the Five Eyes are unlikely to be satisfied without changes to assist terrorism and criminal investigations too.