Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Bruce Schneier’s Letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on App Stores

Bruce Schneier:

S.2992 bars large tech companies from unfairly preferencing their own products on platforms they own or control. S.2710 prohibits forcing app developers to use a specific in-app payment system owned or controlled by the owner of the app store. Both have size thresholds to ensure these limits only apply to extremely large firms.

I would like to address some of the unfounded security concerns raised about these bills. It’s simply not true that this legislation puts user privacy and security at risk. In fact, it’s fairer to say that this legislation puts those companies’ extractive business-models at risk. Their claims about risks to privacy and security are both false and disingenuous, and motivated by their own self-interest and not the public interest. App store monopolies cannot protect users from every risk, and they frequently prevent the distribution of important tools that actually enhance security. Furthermore, the alleged risks of third-party app stores and “side-loading” apps pale in comparison to their benefits. These bills will encourage competition, prevent monopolist extortion, and guarantee users a new right to digital self-determination.

Schneier’s letter is not breaking new ground for close watchers of this topic, but it is a concise and compelling argument against centralized singular app marketplaces.

Schneier attributes many of the moderation decisions made by Google and — in particular — Apple to profit. Specific incidents are debatable and both companies may have legitimate privacy or security concerns with apps they deem violate their platform policies. However, it is difficult to trust them when their decisions are undermined by the potential for profit motivations.