Tim Cook uses privacy keynote to attack sideloading – TechCrunch

Apple CEO Tim Cook used a speech at the IAPP conference in Washington DC today to frame impending competition reforms that could force the iPhone maker to allow app sideloading as a threat to privacy and security.

His comments avoided mentioning any specific legislation, but there are moves afoot on both sides of the Atlantic that could force Apple to loosen control of the iOS user experience by forcing it to allow sideloading, such as the Open Application Markets Act, introduced in the US Senate last summer, or the European Union’s Digital Markets Act, which won political agreement last month and is likely to go into effect later this year.

In this morning’s keynote address, Cook repeated a longstanding claim that Apple believes privacy is “a fundamental human right,” once again attacking “a data industrial complex built on a foundation of surveillance,” said he is working overtime to undermine the web. privacy of users for their own commercial benefit.

That’s why, Cook said, Apple has developed a number of features in recent years to help users counter commercial surveillance and “have more control over their private information,” such as the App Tracking Transparency feature it added last year. past and that requires apps to ask users for permission to track them, or an email address protection feature launched by Apple that makes it harder for third parties to link users’ web activity across different services.

But Apple’s CEO soon sought to intertwine threats to user privacy, which he suggested should be countered by giving users more controls to make them harder to track, with the broader issue of security threats, such as those posed by malware like ransomware, going on to argue that security as a general privacy booster is not improved by giving users more control over the choice of third-party software they can download.

Instead, Cook argued, giving users the option to opt out of the “rigorous security protections” he suggested Apple has built into the App Store (through the app review process), by allowing users to of iOS to download apps or even choose to use an app other than -Apple’s app store altogether: It would ultimately reduce your control by removing a “safer option”.

“I’m afraid we may soon lose the ability to provide some of those protections,” he suggested, framing impending competition-focused regulations as a risk to both “our privacy and our security.”

And while Cook said some of these regulatory reforms may be well-intentioned, he outlined an overwhelmingly negative outcome for users, if “data-hungry companies could bypass our privacy rules and once again track our users against their will.” “, as a result of laws forcing Apple to open iPhones to apps that bypass App Store review via sideloading.

Apple is “deeply concerned about regulations that would undermine privacy and security in the service of some other goal,” it said, also suggesting that sideloading would “potentially give bad actors a way around the comprehensive security protections that we have implemented, putting them in direct contact with our users”.

Here he pointed to the example of fake Covid tracking apps that infected some smartphone user devices (not iPhones) with ransomware early in the pandemic by targeting people who “could install apps from websites that lack the defenses of the App Store”, as framed. that.

“Proponents of these regulations argue that no harm would be done simply by giving people a choice. But removing a more secure option will leave users with fewer options, not more,” he warned. “And when companies decide to leave the App Store because they want to exploit user data, it could put significant pressure on people to engage with alternative app stores. App stores where your privacy and security may not be protected.”

“We have long said that security is the foundation of privacy, because there is no privacy in a world where your private data can be stolen with impunity. Never before has this threat been deeper, nor its consequences more visible,” Cook also argued.

He went on to make the point even more forceful a bit later in the speech, warning that forcing Apple to allow unvetted apps on iPhones “will have” “profound” unintended consequences.

“And when we see that, we feel an obligation to speak up, and ask lawmakers to work with us to advance goals that I truly believe we share, without undermining privacy in the process,” he added, saying Apple will continue to push. on this topic and urged the privacy community attending the conference to come together and “ensure that regulations are crafted, interpreted and implemented in ways that protect people’s fundamental rights.”

Cook ended his speech by characterizing the regulatory changes in competition policy as “a pivotal moment in the battle for privacy.”

“Those of us who create technology and create the rules that govern it have a deep responsibility to the people we serve,” he added. “Let’s embrace that responsibility. Let’s protect our data and secure our digital world.”

The argument is not new to Apple; the company has repeatedly sought to counter policy moves to reduce its ability to control iOS by framing such proposals as a security risk and, more broadly, a downgrade of the premium user experience.

However, Apple’s app review process isn’t perfect and doesn’t guarantee that iOS users are always protected from scams and fraud or even malware within the App Store. Similarly, Apple’s heavily marketed privacy features don’t provide users with perfect protection against tracking. The truth, as always, is much grayer.

So it doesn’t seem like a big leap to think that laws giving iOS users a option transferring apps, should they decide to accept that risk, won’t spell the end of privacy and security in iOS either.

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