Apr 12, 2022 - Technology

Tim Cook defends a closed App Store against looming regulations

Tim Cook at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Tim Cook attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Photo: Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook made an impassioned plea Tuesday against looming U.S. and European regulations that could fundamentally change the App Store's model.

Why it matters: Apple is feeling the heat as it may be forced to change longstanding policies it argues are best for user privacy and security.

Driving the news: Cook made the comments during a speech at the International Association of Privacy Professionals' Privacy Summit in Washington, as governments consider laws that would force Apple to open up its walled-off App Store.

  • In Europe, lawmakers will soon pass the Digital Markets Act, which would force Apple to allow users to download apps outside of the App Store and let developers use their own payment systems.
  • Similar legislation is winding its way through Congress, but passing it will be a heavier lift.

What they're saying: "We are deeply concerned about regulations that would undermine privacy and security in service of some other aim," Cook said.

  • "Here in Washington and elsewhere, policymakers are taking steps in the name of competition that would force Apple to let apps on the iPhone that circumvent the App Store through a process called 'side loading'... That means data hungry companies would be able to avoid our privacy rules and once again track our users against their will."

Between the lines: Cook and Apple have repeatedly made the argument that the fees they charge app developers and the policies that keep the App Store under Apple's control are key to keeping people's data safe on iPhones.

  • Cook took indirect aim at companies that rely on targeted advertising in his speech. He said loss of privacy is not inevitable with technology and that it can be designed to keep it.
  • "Imagine a stranger following you as you take your child to school, holding a camera outside the driver's side window, recording everything you do," he said. "Imagine you open your computer and the stranger is suddenly watching your every keystroke. You wouldn't call that a service. You would call it an emergency."
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