European app store regulation would open “Pandora’s box”

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Proposed European regulation that could force Apple to allow iPhone users to install software from the Internet would open a “Pandora’s Box” and could threaten entire computer networks, said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software a speech on Wednesday.

The remarks at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal escalated Apple’s rhetoric about what could go wrong if Apple is forced to change its App Store policies. Regulators and lawmakers around the world are scrutinizing the company’s control over iPhone software.

Apple is particularly concerned about the Digital Markets Act, which CEO Tim Cook previously said would force Apple to “sideload” or allow iPhone apps to be installed from the web rather than through Apple’s App Store.

“European decision-makers have often been ahead of the curve,” said Federighi. “But side loading on the iPhone would be a step backwards. Instead of creating a selection, it could open a Pandora’s box of untested malware and software.”

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, presented the Digital Markets Act last December. The law is designed to prevent companies like Apple, Google, and Meta, formerly known as Facebook, from abusing their power. It contains a number of rules that would oblige them to open their platforms to competitors. Failure to comply can result in fines of up to 10% of global annual company sales.

In a report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last month, Apple explicitly cited the Digital Markets Act and said that if passed, it could require changes to Apple’s App Store that could hurt the company’s financial results.

On Wednesday, Federighi failed to address the potential financial impact on Apple. Instead, he argued that sideloading would lead to users being tricked into downloading malware.

“Even if you have no intention of sideloading, people are routinely forced or tricked into it,” Federighi said, citing malware on Google’s Android that enables sideloading. However, Google warns users about this in system messages and pop-ups.

Federighi argued that although tech-savvy people might be able to identify malware on the internet, their parents or children could still be deceived, compromising the security of everyone’s iPhone data.

“The fact is, a compromised device, including a cell phone, can pose a threat to an entire network,” said Federighi. “Malware in sideloaded apps can compromise government systems, corporate networks and public utilities, the list goes on.”

“That one provision in the DMA would force any iPhone user into a landscape of professional scammers who are constantly trying to fool them,” said Federighi. He said users can choose between iPhones and Android phones that allow sideloading.

Apple has spoken out against any changes to its app store that restrict the installation of iPhone apps. It is appealing a decision in a US lawsuit with Epic Games that Apple must allow app developers to use their own billing software and to link apps to it.

Apple says its app store and approval process provide security and more privacy to its users. But the App Store also generates huge profits for Apple through app download fees and in-app purchases, which can amount to up to 30%.

Developers and regulators argue that Apple’s control of its app store, including banning sideloading, is reducing user choice and forcing software makers to pay Apple for services like payment processing that they can do cheaper on their own.

Federighi’s talk on Wednesday reiterated some points Apple CEO Tim Cook made earlier this year, but went further, especially when discussing scenarios where iPhone users can be sideloaded.

“I look at the technical regulation that was discussed, I think there are good parts of it. And I think there are parts of it that are not in the best interests of the user, ”Cook said in a virtual appearance at a French conference earlier this year.

“If you take an example that I don’t think it’s in the best interests that the current DMA language that is being discussed would force sideloading on the iPhone,” Cook said. “And this would be an alternative way of bringing apps to the iPhone, which would destroy the security of the iPhone.”

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