Apple's new privacy websiteSource: Rene Ritchie / iMore

What you need to know

  • Apple's focus on user privacy is being criticized by lawmakers.
  • Congressman David N. Cicilline says he's concerned it could be used as "a shield for anticompetitive behavior".
  • Apple "partners" have reportedly met with House lawmakers to discuss concerns.

A report suggests that US lawmakers are concerned that Apple's focus on user privacy may actually be a shield for anticompetitive practices.

A report from The Washington Post via 9to5Mac claims that Congressman David N. Cicilline, Democrat for Rhode Island and chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, says he is concerned over "the use of privacy as a shield for anticompetitive behavior."

According to the report, Cicilline is pushing for "strong" privacy laws in the United States, which would take the regulation of privacy out of the hands of big tech companies like Apple. He reportedly said:

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"I'm increasingly concerned about the use of privacy as a shield for anti-competitive conduct... There is a growing risk that without a strong privacy law in the United States, platforms will exploit their role as de facto private regulators by placing a thumb on the scale in their own favor."

Apparently, Cicilline is most concerned about changes Apple made to its location services in iOS 13. Apple removed the "always allow" option from the splash screen in iOS 13. It is reported that lawmakers are concerned that Apple may have given itself access to location data denied to third-party competitors, for example, Tile. An Apple statement in response said:

"We created the App Store with two goals in mind: that it be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. We continually work with developers and take their feedback on how to help protect user privacy while also providing the tools developers need to make the best app experiences."

The report notes that House lawmakers are said to have met with Apple "partners" to discuss these concerns, according to people with knowledge of the meetings.

These people said that one of the topics discussed was Apple's practice of making changes to the rules that govern its App Store ecosystem in the name of privacy, while also tying the hands of competitors.

Apple has been the subject of much antitrust talk of late, both at home and abroad, however, this is the first time that location services and privacy seem to have been raised as a concern. It seems a little bizarre to portray "privacy" and "competition" as two opposite ends of a spectrum and worrying that it might be suggested that users or tech companies should have to choose between the two.

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