Apple Privacy Chief: North Dakota Bill ‘Threatens to Destroy the iPhone as You Know It’

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The North Dakota Senate this week introduced a new bill that would prevent Apple and Google from requiring developers to use their respective app stores and payment methods, paving the way for alternative app store options, reports The Bismarck Tribune (via The Verge).

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According to Senator Kyle Davison, who introduced Senate Bill 2333 yesterday, the legislation is designed to “level the playing field” for app developers in North Dakota and shield customers from “devastating, monopolistic fees imposed by big tech companies,” which refers to the cut that Apple and Google take from developers.

Specifically, the bill would prevent Apple from requiring a developer to use a digital application distribution platform as the exclusive mode of distributing a digital product, and it would keep the company from requiring developers to use in-app purchases as the exclusive mode of accepting payment from a user. There’s also wording preventing Apple from retaliating against developers who choose alternate distribution and payment methods.

Apple Chief Privacy Engineer Erik Neuenschwander spoke out against the bill, saying that it “threatens to destroy the iPhone as you know it” by requiring changes that would “undermine the privacy, security, safety, and performance” of the ‌iPhone‌.

Neuenschwander said that Apple “works hard” to keep bad apps from the App Store, and North Dakota’s bill would “require us to let them in.”

Apple does not allow apps to be installed on iOS devices outside of the ‌App Store‌ and there are no alternate app store options that are available. Apple reviews every app that is made available for its customers to download, something that would not happen with a third-party app store option.

Apple also does not let app developers accept payments through methods other than in-app purchase except in select situations, a policy that has led to Apple’s legal fight with Epic Games. ‌Epic Games‌ added an alternate payment method to Fortnite last year, leading the app to be banned from the ‌App Store‌.

Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, who was also embroiled in a legal fight with Apple over email app “HEY” last year, testified in favor of SB 2333 and said that it gives him hope that “tech monopolies aren’t going to rule the world forever.”

In 2020, Apple faced a U.S. antitrust inquiry into its ‌App Store‌ fees and policies, which resulted in a 450 page report calling for new antitrust laws focused on promoting fair competition in digital markets, strengthening laws related to mergers and monopolization, and restoring vigorous oversight and enforcement of antitrust law.
No federal legislation has been introduced as of yet, and the North Dakota Senate committee did not take action on the bill. Senator Jerry Klein said that there’s “still some mulling to be done” in reference to the bill.

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