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Apple shouldn’t use privacy & security to stave off competition, EU antitrust head warns

Responding to comments made by Apple CEO Tim Cook in June, European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager said that Apple shouldn’t use privacy and security concerns to stifle competition on the App Store.

Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president, has proposed regulations that could force Apple to allow alternate app stores. Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke out against the proposal, stating that they could threaten the privacy and security of iOS.

In an interview with Reuters, Vestager agreed with Cook that privacy and security are important factors for consumers, but warned the Cupertino tech giant against using concerns about them to fend off competition.

“I think privacy and security is of paramount importance to everyone,” Vestager said. “The important thing here is, of course, that it’s not a shield against competition, because I think customers will not give up neither security nor privacy if they use another app store or if they sideload.”

Vestager added that she was open to changes in her proposals, which need input from EU member states and lawmakers before it can become law.

“I think that it is possible to find solutions to this,” Vestager said.

Sideloading, or app distribution outside of the official iOS App Store, has also been a talking point in antitrust debates in the U.S. — including during the Epic Games v. Apple trial. Apple in June released a report describing why it’s against sideloading on its own platforms.

The EU competition chief told Reuters that recent privacy changes to iOS, including App Tracking Transparency, aren’t currently an antitrust target. In fact, she praised Apple’s new privacy controls.

“As I have said, I think actually several times, that it is a good thing when providers give us the service that we can easily set our preferences if we want to be tracked outside the use of an app or not as long as it’s the same condition for everyone,” Vestager added. “So far, we have no reason to believe that this is not the case for Apple.”

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