Antitrust Case Against Apple Expected in U.S. This Year

David McCabe and Tripp Mickle, New York Times:

The Justice Department is in the late stages of an investigation into Apple and could file a sweeping antitrust case taking aim at the company’s strategies to protect the dominance of the iPhone as soon as the first half of this year, said three people with knowledge of the matter.

The agency is focused on how Apple has used its control over its hardware and software to make it more difficult for consumers to ditch the company’s devices, as well as for rivals to compete, said the people, who spoke anonymously because the investigation was active.

I would not trust commentary before details are made public — though I imagine those specifics are foreshadowed beginning on page 330 of the Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets report (PDF) of 2020 — but there is one thing in this Times story I feel compelled to highlight:

Apple’s new privacy tool, App Tracking Transparency, which allows iPhone users to explicitly choose whether an app can track them, drew scrutiny because of its curtailing of user data collection by advertisers. Advertising companies have said that the tool is anticompetitive.

This is why a baseline level of privacy expectations ought to be regulated in law, not by individual companies. You could quibble with the wisdom of potentially investigating Apple’s offering of privacy protections — perhaps you believe it should be able to compete on those grounds — but, as a major platform operator, it undeniably has leverage which could be construed as illegally anticompetitive.