Apple and Google Criticised as ‘Gatekeepers’ for App Stores by US Commerce Department
Developer Tech

Apple and Google Criticised as ‘Gatekeepers’ for App Stores by US Commerce Department

The App Store and Google Play Store are the only two prime sources for reliable application installation, purchase, and more. We may witness a real change soon since Google and Apple have been mentioned in the latest report of the US National Telecommunications and Administration or NTIA regarding app store management.

Biden administration officials have termed these tech giants gatekeepers of the mobile application market. They have claimed a more transparent experience for users. They asked both Apple and Google to offer more control for smartphone users regarding their applications.

Let’s check out what the report says and what NTIA wants Apple and Google to do.

Issues Mentioned in the Report

Biden administration regulates internet policies and much more through the US Commerce Department’s NTIA. The department released this particular report on 1 February 2023. Additionally, the report pinpoints how Apple and Google keep harming mobile app developers and general smartphone users.

On top of that, NTIA expresses that the app store market should stay competitive rather than being bossed by Google and Apple. The department specifically calls these 2 companies ‘gatekeepers’ of the application store marketplace. In addition, the officials are concerned about the surging prices and lack of innovations.

The Department of Commerce’s NTIA also states that users should possess more control over their devices. For instance, some apps come pre-installed on both iOS and Android devices, and users are not allowed to remove them from devices, so they are unable to install applications of their choice and reliance.

Moreover, there are 2 main issues with the current mobile app ecosystem. The report mentions that app stores from Google and Apple restrict healthy market competition. Users mostly can’t retrieve reliable applications outside the App Store and Google PlayStore.

Sideloading is almost a big NO for iOS users, and such instances are hindrances for other competitors such as Samsung’s Galaxy Store, Amazon Appstore, and more. These stores are practically out of the robust competition going in the app store market.

What’s More?

Another observed problem is that both companies have imposed complicated barriers on app functionality. This creates a nuisance for app developers, who can’t compete in a healthy and justified way. Basically, there are restrictions on the review process while funneling applications and the functional mechanism of corresponding apps.

However, the report has expressed that the process might help determine the security standards of users. Still, the existing mobile app ecosystem hurts developers and users if you minimize security measures. The department has also included that these companies can’t just rule out applications in the name of security.

Moreover, they have added that Apple and Google should work out something to keep security and privacy intact in a greater competitive market. On the other hand, the agency has questioned the current in-app payment policies.

The agency has alleged Apple and Google for pushing certain apps more than others in some areas. In the report, the officials have stated that the companies don’t disclose how the existing ecosystem is more advantageous for other competitors. It apparently benefits only Google and Apple.

Why is the White House After These 2 Tech firms?

The report might appear to be a rebel against Apple and Google as Biden administrative officials have worked behind it. However, the president initiated a bipartisan approach to investigate how these companies use personal data. Not to mention, this report has expressed doubt over the current global business policies of Apple and Google.

The report recommends preventing app stores from favoring their applications and discouraging users from installing similar apps from other sites. As you might recall, Epic Games charged Google and Apple for disobeying US antitrust laws back in 2020. In the last few years, the US government has investigated how tech firms such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Meta violate such laws.

Alan Davidson, the Assistant Secretary of NTIA, has added that applications are a part of business and consumers’ regular needs. He wishes the mobile application market should be more competitive rather than one-sided. Also, NTIA claims that the upcoming mobile app ecosystem should be more innovative and fair for consumers, developers, and businesses.

Suggestions from NTIA

So far, NTIA has labeled multiple problems with the existing market for mobile apps. NTIA has asked Google and Apple to make significant changes in their business protocols. Here are some prime changes suggested by the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration:

Consumers Must have More Control over Apps

Whenever a user purchases an Android or iOS device, there are some pre-installed or pushed applications by the corresponding app store. Consumers might be able to remove a few pushed third-party applications, but they can’t delete those default applications.

NTIA suggests that users should be capable of choosing their default applications independently. The alleged app stores should offer consumers subtle choices to switch if they feel uncomfortable with existing default apps.

The Use of In-App Payment Systems

In the current app store ecosystem, tech firms force developers to include in-app payment systems. This leads to financial losses for developers. However, NTIA has recommended that app store operator can insist on developers from now on regarding in-app payment add-ons.

Restriction on Favouring Own Apps by Operators

NTIA has advised that tech firms should not push their applications. This conduct simply discriminates against applications with the same functionality. Users should be given fair choices to select the one they need.

On a Contradictory Note….

So far, suggestions from NTIA are fair. However, the department highlighted a huge controversy related to the security and privacy aspect. The agency has recommended that operators discard limitations on how consumers download applications.

This drives both security and privacy at higher risk. According to the report, security should be a competitive feature, not a mandatory requirement. The agency acknowledges the significance of data security and user privacy but still marks them as an added feature.

An apple spokesperson has expressed the differences between what NTIA wants and what Apple realizes through a statement to Engadget. The spokesperson has commented that Apple pays special attention to innovation scopes and security layers. Additionally, small developers and regular users of the iPhone take part in developing applications on Apple’s trusted and secure platform.

What if Data Security Turns into an Optional Feature?

As suggested by NTIA, user privacy, and data security should become a feature, not a necessity anymore. The agency plans for a more open market for developers and thus it will grow more competitive than it is now. Additionally, the officials guessed that these changes could bring more quality, innovation, curation, and more factors.

The suggestions might benefit a specific group of people but we don’t think they will be applicable to all. After all, there are chances of privacy and security getting compromised. The connected environment might be vulnerable, and consumers might suffer from those ill-revised security options.

A user can become a carrier of something malicious beyond their knowledge. Afterward, the carrier might harm others on the same connected network. This will take place if NTIA forces operators to lift mandatory security and privacy checks.

Undoubtedly, the whole ecosystem might crash for a ‘competitive marketplace’.

Are NTIA Suggestions Anyhow Rewarding?

Some consumers might gain advantages from such proposed statements. They can get cheaper options for the application and services. Developers will get more chances to pursue innovation, and they can profit from the payment process.

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