Lawmakers Target iOS Location Privacy Features in Ongoing Antitrust Probe
U.S. lawmakers in charge of a sprawling antitrust probe into "Big Tech" are scrutinizing a number of privacy-minded improvements Apple rolled out as part of iOS 13, including restrictions pertaining to location data, noting the new limitations are not applied to first-party apps and services.
Apple has faced criticism from lawmakers for several reasons recently, including its presence in Chinaand its repair programs. Now, The Washington Post reports that Apple is being questioned for using its focus on user privacy as a “guise for anti-competitive behavior.”
The concern comes from Congressman David N. Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who serves as chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee. Cicilline explained that he’s concerned about “the use of privacy as a shield for anticompetitive behavior.”
The lawmaker went on to explain that a “strong privacy law” in the United States would mean that companies like Apple would no longer have to regulate privacy themselves.
Cicilline’s concern was prompted by the changes Apple made to location services in iOS 13. Essentially, Apple has cracked down on the access that third-party applications have to a user’s location, and made more information about to users about when an app is using their location.
Lawmakers are now concerned that Apple itself has access to additional location data that is not available to competitors.
One specific example cited in the article is Tile, which just so happens to come as Apple prepares to launch its own AirTag item trackers. The report explains that Tile can now longer ask permission for always-on location tracking, which hinders its ability to find items offline.
In a statement, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said that the company is working with developers who are affected by the new location services policy.
With that in mind, however, The Washington Post reports that House lawmakers have been meeting with Apple “partners” to discuss these concerns.
Apple is currently embroiled in a handful of different anti-trust cases around the world, including concerns around Apple Music, the App Store, and more. Today’s report from The Washington Post has additional details on the concerns over the new location privacy features.
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