Web summit in Lisbon: Apple’s software boss warns of a draft EU directive in the App Store

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Apple software boss Craig Federighi took to the stage at the Web Summit in Lisbon to voice the iPhone manufacturer’s objections to EU directives that could allow customers to install software from outside their app stores.

Apple claims that such a move would target phones with malware or cybercriminal hijackings, and the company is sending top executives to Europe to gain public support and show its determination that the proposal will not become law.

The digital markets law under consideration in Brussels would force phone manufacturers to allow third-party software to be installed on their devices from outside the official app stores.

Big tech critics say Apple and others are using their control over software to consolidate their dominant position, while Apple argues that its policies are designed to keep users safe.

Apple calls such unofficial app installations “side-loading”. Such a feature is already available on Android phones that make up the majority of devices around the world. Apple warned of malicious apps infecting shopper gadgets and made doomsday predictions.

“Sideloading is a cybercriminal’s best friend,” urged Federighi on stage, addressing thousands of attendees at Europe’s largest technology conference.

A compromised device could spill into entire networks and malware could compromise government systems, corporate networks and public utilities, he said.

The draft laws need the green light from EU lawmakers and EU countries before they are expected to come into force in 2023.

Apple charges commissions of up to 30 percent on App Store purchases, and easing access to it could allow developers to avoid paying those commissions.

Companies like Spotify, which are battling Apple on various fronts, from privacy changes on iOS devices to high commissions, have called Apple’s policies “anti-competitive.”

“The discussion of sideloading is just a sideload that is really aimed at distracting the conversation from the things Apple is doing that are clearly anti-competitive,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s chief legal officer, in an interview.

“Nobody is arguing that Apple should lower its privacy and security standards … it makes perfect sense for Apple to set and enforce certain privacy standards,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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