According to the Biden administration, Apple and Google “serve as gatekeepers over the apps that people and businesses rely on” and enact regulations that “have the potential to hurt consumers by increasing prices and restricting innovation.”
The NTIA came to the conclusion that “consumers can’t really get apps outside of the Apple and Google-controlled app store model” and that “Apple and Google create hurdles for developers to compete for consumers by imposing technical limits, such as restricting how apps can function or requiring developers to go through slow and opaque review processes.”
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“According to the NTIA, the corporations “imposed needless obstacles and costs for app creators, ranging from fees for access to functional restrictions that favor some apps over others. They also managed their app ecosystems differently.”
” Any alternative distribution models have “severe limitations and limited functionality due to the incentive structures generated by the current rules and practices of Apple and Google,” according to the NTIA.
NTIA: “Avoid sideloading restrictions”
Despite acknowledging security hazards from unintended installation of malicious software, the NTIA lobbied US legislators and regulators to oppose sideloading limitations. Legislative and regulatory measures “should prohibit limits on sideloading, alternative app stores, and web apps while yet keeping reasonable tolerance for privacy and security safeguards,” the NTIA stated.
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The NTIA added that Apple and Google “should not be able to favor their own apps in how they appear in search results or discriminate against other apps that are similar to their own” and that users “should be able to choose their own apps as defaults, use alternative mobile app stores, and delete or hide pre-installed apps.” The NTIA also advocated against “requirements that developers use the in-app payment system of the app store operators.”
Google and Apple disapprove of the report
Apple and Google both sent statements in response to inquiries from Ars denouncing the NTIA study.
Apple stated, “We appreciate the report’s recognition of the significance of user privacy, data security, and user convenience. However, a number of the conclusions made in the report, which disregard the investments we make in innovation, privacy, and security—all of which contribute to why users love the iPhone and create a level playing field for small developers to compete on a safe and trusted platform—are ones with which we respectfully disagree.
Additionally, according to Apple, “third-party apps are among the most well-liked on the App Store, contributing to a thriving app economy that comprises millions of apps and sustains hundreds of thousands of US jobs.”
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Google reported it “disagrees with how Android is portrayed in this research because it offers more options and competition than any other mobile operating system. The open system of Android already permits sideloading, various app stores, and interoperability, all while protecting privacy and security, according to NTIA.”
According to the NTIA report, many of the comments the organization received questioned “the technical needs” of the limitations put in place by Apple and Google.
“While Apple and Google cite benefits to users in the form of increased security and privacy protections and to developers in the form of access to markets and development tools as justifications for some measures, many commenters contest the technical necessity of these decisions and wonder whether other models could provide a similar, if not greater benefit. It is also unclear how the existing system serves anyone outside Apple and Google in some areas, such in-app payments “stated the research.