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Screenshot from Apple's WWDC 2019 webcast

Regulators are increasingly policing Big Tech's privacy violations while also investigating the same companies for anticompetitive behavior. Now Apple has thrown them a curve ball: It's leveraging its platform's market power to help users protect their privacy.

Driving the news: The new "Sign In with Apple" service, announced Monday, aims to offer apps and websites a privacy-protecting alternative to using Google or Facebook as a means of authenticating user logins.

  • As Google and Facebook have taken mounting heat for their user-data-driven advertising models, Apple has positioned itself as a privacy-respecting alternative.

The catch: Apple will require iOS app developers that offer Google, Facebook or any third-party authentication to also offer Sign In with Apple.

What they're saying: Apple defends the move as a benefit to both consumers and developers, noting that it's collecting no new data and only mandating the authentication be an option.

  • Apple says its option is also better for developers, allowing them to avoid having to share user data with Facebook and Google.

Yes, but: Critics say that Apple may not be capitalizing on user data today, but its good intentions shouldn't be a justification for insisting its feature be used in order to offer an app on the platform it controls.

  • There's a concern that Apple could change its tune once Sign In with Apple is used in millions of apps.
  • And while that would be a giant shift from today, when Apple CEO Tim Cook insists privacy is a human right, a future executive could change course.

The big picture: Sign In with Apple wasn't the only Apple move this week in support of protecting customer privacy. The company also announced...

  • Plans to limit the types of advertising that can be used in apps that target kids.
  • Changes to MacOS that will reduce access that security software and hardware makers have to the kernel, the operating system's foundational level.
  • An option to allow users to share their location just once with an app, rather than give it extended permission.

The other side: Apple this week also reversed an earlier position that limited choice in the name of protecting users.

  • The company previously barred app developers that make tools to track and limit kids' screen use from using a feature designed for businesses to monitor users' behavior.
  • App makers cried foul, suggesting Apple was limiting competition to its own Screen Time feature.
  • Apple is now letting the competing apps use such technologies to deliver parental controls as long as they don't share the data or use it themselves.

The bottom line: In most cases and for many consumers, Apple's stricter privacy protections will be welcome. But given Apple's total control over what apps iOS will run and what features they offer, it's also important to keep an eye on how Apple wields that power.

Go deeper

Former Sen. Bob Dole dies

Former Senator Bob Dole in 2019. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Former Kansas Senator Leader Bob Dole passed away Sunday morning at the age of 98, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced in a statement.

Driving the news: Dole, a revered figure in U.S. politics and the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, served in the Senate for 27 years, including 11 years as GOP leader. Earlier this year he revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

5 hours ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.