Developers accuse Apple of anti-competitive behavior with its privacy changes in iOS 13

A group of app developers have written a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook in which the group argues that a new privacy-focused change to Apple’s iOS 13 operating system is likely to negatively impact their businesses.

Sarah Perez for TechCrunch:

In a report by The Information, the developers were said to have accused Apple of anti-competitive behavior when it comes to how apps can access user location data.

With iOS 13, Apple aims to curtail apps’ abuse of its location-tracking features as part of its larger privacy focus as a company.

Today, many apps ask users upon first launch to give their app the “Always Allow” location-tracking permission. Users can confirm this with a tap, unwittingly giving apps far more access to their location data than is actually necessary, in many cases.

In iOS 13, however, Apple has tweaked the way apps can request location data… The “Always” option is still available, but users will have to head to iOS Settings to manually enable it. (A periodic pop-up will also present the “Always” option, but not right away)… In addition, the developers’ letter pointed out that Apple’s own built-in apps (like Find My) aren’t treated like this, which raises anti-competitive concerns.

MacDailyNews Take: So, the devs are arguing that Apple’s change may confuse average users, who may assume the app isn’t functioning properly without “Always On” location data, but app makers could simply point users to the iOS Settings or, as Perez suggests, limit app functionality until the user grants the “Always Allow” permission.

Apple made a statement to The Information in which the company explained that any changes it makes to the operating system are “in service to the user” and to the user’s privacy. Appel also stated that any apps it distributes must also abide by the same procedures.

14 Comments

  1. Basically the devs do not like that Apple will inform users of their own privacy settings, and wahhhhh, we want all their data all the time. Yea, if there is something that stinks about this, it’s the developers who cant get enough of violating users privacy. F them.

    1. Most companies have a bad attitude toward users data. They think “the more the better”, for them it is just more opportunities to monetize. It will take a few big public lawsuits to make them realize that unnecessary users data are a liability too.

  2. You can still set ‘Allow always’ in settings.
    People who don’t know how to do this are the ones most likely in need of Apple’s protection.

    Today with the political climate developers keep throwing the ‘non competitive’ card. Even apps which earlier were stopped from tracking minors and sending info back without their parents knowledge which Apple halted complained about ‘non competitive’.

    Developers should be wary if their ‘complaints’ actually cause the DOJ etc to open up the App store to third party stores.
    Although there is some iOS piracy Android developers have been wrecked by piracy rates up to 90%, i.e 9 out of 10 of their apps installed are pirated versions.

    Consumers should be wary because malware and info tracking today is a big money earner, sometimes more than the ‘profit’ of selling a app itself. (that’s why Google , Facebook etc can give ‘free’ services). Some Android phones are so cheap as they are pre loaded with malware apps at sale (some you can’t erase).

    One line of defence is Apple’s curated app store. Apple even stopped giant Facebook for a while because it was tracking teenagers secretly in contravention of it’s disclosure agreement.

    Imagine if developers are allowed to circumvent Apple’s ‘walled garden’. Also if there were 3rd party stores and your favourite apps move off the App store (i.e no longer available in the App store), figuring out which one is compromised especially with dozens of pirated versions would be real chore.

    1. I can agree that people who don’t know how to change the “Allow Always” setting are the ones most likely in need of Apple’s protection.

      The question is how many iPhone users will bother to learn how to change the setting versus thinking the App is not as good/useful as it used to be and stop using said App and being one impetus to moving to Android for both dev and user.

      1. as article suggests developers can simply post instructions on a new start screen.

        As to your point about Android, If developers want to go Android they are free to do so.
        I dont want developers who do not consider user privacy as a serious prority.

        as for customers moving a dose of Android malware hellstew and they will learn

        ( a while back we got mysterious messages with attachments from my wife’s friend. Checking with her we found her Android had been compromised , a hacker via malware had stolen her info including our email addresses and impersonating her)

        one more time going to settings is NOT hard, developers putting an instruction start screen is NOT hard

        some developers are moaning not because it’s such a chore to deal with new rules because they WANT TO TRACK the UNAWARE CUSTOMERS

        1. I agree that posting instructions on a new start screen would alleviate part of the problem. Users that see that may also have questions as to how far the “Allow All” permissions go now that the new iOS update limits location access by default. This may be a good thing to get users more aware of how granular location access has to be set to be ‘comfortable’ for them.

          Eventually, it may behoove Apple to add a setting to ‘allow’ a certain level of location access at scheduled times set by the user which applies to all Apps including Apple’s. This may also help Apple with any case that would involve alleged ‘anti-competitive’ behavior.

    1. you are free to use hundreds of other phones besides the iPhone.

      iPhone is only 20% of the market.
      You are not prevented from crucial services like calls, text, 911, internet, millions of apps etc if you choose another phone (so there is no ‘monopoly’ or consumer suffering issue).

      Having one walled garden (which is different) actually INCREASES choice instead of all similar to ‘open’ Android.

      The joy of iOS is the seamless integration of hardware, software OS and apps and part of that is knowing that apps are not just safe from malware but they are optimized for iOS. (Besides malware checking Apple app approval also makes sure developers follow other guidelines so apps are optimized for use). Poorly designed apps and software integration can cause all kinds of slowdowns etc . (one reason why Android phones often need many more cores to match iPhone performance, to push through the sludge. Pre installed apps aka malware can reduce your ‘open’ Android phone to a stuttering performance wreck )

      . Don’t like walled garden iPhone the other 80% of the market is welcoming you with ‘open’ arms

        1. you are Free to go to hundreds of other phones available there.

          Seriously everybody in the civilized world are ALREADY in a ‘benevolent dictatorships’, you are NOT TOTALLY free. You pay taxes , drive by rules, obey your boss etc.

          There is no such thing as total freedom.

          This idea that you put forth that Apple is somehow so weird and horrible and UNIQUE with app store rules is hilarious.
          Why don’t you tell Disney or Walmart to open up their stores to everything and have no rules in their stores.

          And i know you’ll come back with “but I OWN the iPhone” as if ownership gives you total freedom.
          Software manufacturers often bind you to what you can do with their software.
          Real estate companies might make you sign a contract binding you to what you can do with YOUR land, like size of house, type of siding , even the landscaping.

          (I was looking for land and I refused to buy from such real estate companies as I wanted more freedom, so I went elsewhere JUST like YOU CAN go elsewhere to hundreds of other phones).

            1. “PS-Thise real estate companies give you usage rights, or shares. Not ownership.”

              some are strata (and these aren’t really shares either) but others aren’t and are completely designed ‘freehold’ , you own the land but they make you sign an agreement to what you can do with it.

              Even private owners can do this, not corporations, a owner might sell you half his land and tell you that sign an agreement to keep the trees or something.

              These are contracts, the police won’t get involved if you break them but I can sue you for breach of contract.

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