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REPORT: House Will Reintroduce Bill to Blow Up App Stores’ Security Features
News Article

REPORT: House Will Reintroduce Bill to Blow Up App Stores’ Security Features

by David B. McGarry

The Open App Markets Act (OAMA), a bill to regulate app stores, will likely return this year. The was previously passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. According to Politico, “Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) on the House [Energy and Commerce] Committee is ‘exploring the lead sponsorship’ for a new version…according to a staffer in the congressperson’s office.” 

Supporters of OAMA say that in the name of competitive “fairness,” OAMA would require tech companies such as Apple and Google to allow users to download applications from third-party app stores. Through this process (known as sideloading), applications can circumvent the cybersecurity reviews Apple and Google’s app stores conduct. Android devices (which permit sideloading) fall victim to malware at a rate far higher than iPhones, which do not permit sideloading.

OAMA also threatens Americans’ data privacy. Currently, Apple’s iOS payment intermediates many on-device purchases. It keeps customers’ payment information from third-party sellers. This prevents the proliferation of sensitive user data across the internet. OAMA would likely outlaw this pro-privacy feature.

Private companies such as Apple have innovated myriad business models and privacy features. They have staked out their competitive advantage and profits by providing maximally popular and useful services to consumers. When regulators, to achieve some technocratic end state, interfere in the free market’s workings, they also create legions of unintended consequences that invariably harm consumers.

And while some label such consequences as “unforeseen,” they are not. Privacy-conscious commentators have flagged repeatedly the cybersecurity and privacy risks OAMA and other recent antitrust proposals would pose.

Maintaining one’s personal cybersecurity is quite difficult. Cybersecurity company Norton found in 2021 that, “More than half of all consumers have experienced a cybercrime,” of which roughly one third had occurred in the year preceding. Even governments and the largest corporations fail routinely to ward off cybercrime.

While no policy can eliminate cybercrime – or any sort of crime – officials ought to refrain from passing legislation that would weaken security features.

David B. McGarry is a policy analyst at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Published on August 23, 2023