Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

CMA Report on Mobile Ecosystems

Dimitrios Katsifis, writing in the Platform Law Blog, published by a British–Belgian law firm:

On 10 June 2022, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its Final Report on its year-long market study into mobile ecosystems — namely mobile operating systems, app stores, and web browsers. The CMA found that Apple and Google have a tight grip over these increasingly crucial ecosystems, which in turn places them in a very powerful position. As a result, thousands of businesses which rely on these ecosystems to reach their users face restrictions and terms which they have little choice but to accept, while consumers are likely to miss out on new innovations, have less choice, and ultimately face higher prices. In response, the CMA has identified a wide range of potential interventions that could help unlock competition and protect millions of businesses and people.

Even so, ecosystem operators — and Apple in particular — have fiercely opposed any intervention on the part of the CMA, arguing that this would compromise user privacy, security, and safety. […]

Of course there are times when real privacy and security risks conflict with permissive on-platform competition. But the CMA identified several areas where it says Apple and Google overstated those concerns in defence of their platform rules choices. That is a bit of a case of the boy crying “wolf!”. It is difficult to believe platform operators are always making these decisions only in the name of privacy and security when there are conflicts of interest in their own business lines.

Ideally, platform owners should be making decisions about what to allow in their ecosystem because regulators should not be micromanaging.

One other thing; Katsifis:

First, the choice architecture for the ATT prompt — which Apple chose without conducting any user testing — may not maximise user comprehension and thus could unduly influence some users to opt out of data sharing. Among others, the framing of the prompt could result in limited user comprehension, while Apple bars developers from offering any incentives for users to opt in to sharing their data (which in principle is not unlawful under UK privacy legislation).

Permitting tracking and data collection by coercion seems ethically fraught to me. How hard is it to not be creepy? At this point, just wipe the entire digital advertising and data broker industry off the face of the Earth and start from scratch.