Tag Archives: Apple

Internal Documents Show Tech Giants Pushing Out Competitors



Internal documents from Google and Amazon provided to Politico show new examples of how companies favor their own products over competitors’ – adding ammunition to the push for Congress to toughen antitrust laws, Politico reported.

According to Politico, the documents, which include emails, memos and strategy papers, were shared by the House Judicial committee, which obtained them as part of its long-running antitrust investigation of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta that wrapped up in October 2020 with a 450-page staff report. The documents were cited in the report, but had not previously been made available.

The documents bolster the committee’s claims that the internet giants illegally favor their own products, a practice that pending legislation to update antitrust laws would make more difficult, Politico reported.

The U.S House Committee on The Judiciary posted a Press Release titled: “Judiciary Committee Publishes Final Report on Competition in the Digital Marketplace”. Here are some key points from the press release:

The House Judiciary Committee today formally published the Committee’s Report, entitled “Investigation of Competition in the Digital Marketplace: Committee Report and Recommendations.” The report was initially released in October 2020 as a Majority Staff Report following a 16-month investigation, led by the Antitrust Subcommittee, into the state of competition in the digital economy, with a focus on the challenges presented by the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

In April 2021, the Committee held a markup and formally adopted the Report. The Report totals more than 450 pages, detailing the findings and recommendations from a bipartisan investigation that included documents and communications from the investigated firms; submissions from 38 antitrust experts; and interviews with more than 240 market participants, former employees of the investigated firms, and other individuals.

The Verge reported that the documents show how Amazon and Google pressured independent sellers and smartphone manufacturers to favor their own products and platforms over those of their competitors. In a January 2014 email, one Google executive raised concerns over a potential new Samsung service that could compete with the company’s “core search experience.”

In another email, Google executives discuss how Amazon’s involvement changed the market for personal voice assistants. “Amazon has changed the dynamics here,” the heavily redacted email reads. “Amazon has built-in incentive to partner with Alexa since they will pull you from their store if you don’t support it.” The Verge reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the tech companies oppose the legislation, saying it would unnecessarily raise the costs of operating platforms that are popular because they benefit consumers and small businesses. According to The Wall Street Journal, lawmakers backing an antitrust bill targeting big tech companies ramped up their push for a vote by releasing internal tech company documents they say show anticompetitive behavior.

I’m not surprised that the big tech companies are engaging in shenanigans. There is a chance that they could face legal consequences if the vote on the antitrust legislation passes.


Apple Accused Of Antitrust Violations Over Apple Pay



Apple was sued on Monday, July 18, in a proposed class action by payment card issuers accusing the iPhone maker of abusing its market power in mobile devices to thwart competition for its Apple Pay mobile wallet, Reuters reported.

According to a complaint filed in San Francisco federal court, Apple “coerces” customers who use smartphones, smart watches and tablets into using its own wallet for contactless payments, unlike makers of Android-based devices that let consumers choose wallets such as Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

The plaintiff in this complaint is Iowa’s Affinity Credit Union, who said Apple’s anticompetitive conduct forces the more than 4,000 banks and credit unions that use Apple Pay to pay at least $1 billion of excess fees annually for the privilege. According to Reuters, Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

MacRumors reported that the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California. The complaint specifically accuses Apple of multiple violations of the federal Sherman Act by “tying” Apple Pay to its mobile devices and monopolizing the “tap and pay iOS mobile wallet market.”

The Verge reported the Plaintiffs claim that Apple has an illegal monopoly over contactless payments on the iPhone, letting it force card issuers into paying fees (via Bloomberg). The suit is being kicked off by Iowa-based Affinity Credit Union, which issues debit and credit cards that are compatible with Apple Pay, but the company’s lawyers hope to make it a class-action case so other card issuers can join the lawsuit.

According to The Verge, lawsuits aren’t automatically granted class-action status – a judge has to decide whether or not to grant it. However, the law firm handling the case for Affinity, Hagens Berman, has a bit of a track record with class-action suits against Apple. It was involved with getting developers a $100 million settlement after alleging that the App Store’s rules were unfair, as well as with the ebook price fixing case that ended with Apple returning around $400 million back to customers.

The complaint is against Defendant Apple Inc., and for Plaintiff Affinity Credit Union, on its own behalf and that of all similarly situated payment card issuers.

Based on everything I’ve read about this lawsuit, it appears to be focused on getting banks and credit unions a reimbursement for the fees that they had to pay in order to offer their customers an Apple Card. The lawyers for Affinity Credit Union want a class-action lawsuit, which could potentially erase the fees that credit unions were charged by Apple.

It does not mean that anyone with an Apple Card can join in this particular class action lawsuit, or that card holders will benefit financially in any way – no matter what the final decision turns out to be. In my opinion, this is a lawsuit that is being presented in an effort to reimburse a specific credit union.


Apple Previews Lockdown Mode To Protect Users From Spyware



Apple announced it is previewing a groundbreaking security capability that offers specialized additional protection to users who may be at risk of highly targeted cyberattacks from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Apple is also providing details of its $10 million grant to bolster research exposing such threats.

From Apple’s announcement:

“Apple today detailed two initiatives to help protect users who may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Lockdown Mode – the first major capability of its kind, coming this fall with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura – is an extreme, optional protection for the very small number of users who face grave, targeted threats to their digital security. Apple also shared details about the $10 million cybersecurity grant it announced last November to support civil society organizations that conduct mercenary spyware threat research and advocacy.”

Lockdown Mode offers an extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Turning on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and MacOS Ventura further hardens defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware.

At launch, Lockdown Mode includes the following protections:

Messages: Most message attachment types other than images are blocked. Some features, like link previews, are disabled.

Web Browsing: Certain complex web technologies, like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode.

Apple Services: Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has not previously sent the initiator a call or request.

Wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.

Configuration profiles cannot be installed, and the device cannot enroll into mobile device management (MDM), while Lockdown Mode is turned on.

Apple says it will continue to strengthen Lockdown Mode and add new protections to it over time. To invite feedback and collaboration from the security research community. Apple has also established a new category within the Apple Security Bounty program to reward researchers who find Lockdown Mode bypasses and help improve its protections. Bounties are doubled for qualifying findings in Lockdown Mode, up to a maximum of $2,000,000 – the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry.

Engadget reported that Lockdown Mode is to protect high-powered people who, because of their job, might be personally targeted by malware developed by the likes of NSO Group, which is behind Pegasus, or other state-backed groups. According to Engadget, Apple sued NSO Group last year to “hold it accountable” for states that target and spy on its users.

In short, most Apple users will not need to engage Lockdown Mode. It was made for people who are more likely to be targeted by nefarious groups who want to cause problems.


Apple Workers At Maryland Store Vote To Unionize



Apple employees at a Baltimore-area store have voted to unionize, making it the first of the company’s 270-plus stores in the United States to join a trend in labor organizing sweeping through retailers, restaurants, and tech companies, The New York Times reported.

The result, announced on Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provides a foothold for a budding movement among Apple retail employees who want a greater voice over wages and Covid-19 policies. Employees of more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in unionizing in recent months, union leaders say.

According to The New York Times, in the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, Md., voted in favor of being represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial trade union that represents over 300,000 employees.

CNBC reported that the vote is a defeat for Apple, which has opposed unionization efforts, and could energize workers at the company’s other retail locations to move forward with organizing.

According to CNBC, The National Labor Relations Board still needs to certify the votes. That could take around a week. Apple is required to bargain with the union over working conditions after the vote is certified, according to the NLRB.

CNBC also noted that Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. It reported over $365 billion in global sales in 2021, and says its retail employees in the U.S. make at least $22 per hour.

TechCrunch reported that this historic victory comes after concentrated efforts from Apple to discourage its retail workers from unionizing. Last month, the trillion-dollar company’s vice president of people and retail Deirdre O’Brian sent a video to 58,000 retail staff, warning them about the perceived drawbacks of unionizing.

According to TechCrunch, O’Brian reiterated anti-union talking points, stating that it would be more difficult to enact change in stores with a union standing between Apple and employees – but workers don’t think that meaningful change is possible without having a formally recognized bargaining unit.

TechCrunch also noted that the Apple store in Maryland will become unionized through the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and are calling themselves the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE). When they first announced their intent to unionize, they wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The New York Times reported that at Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the most momentum, employees credited a vote to organize at a store in Buffalo with helping to spur other stores to file for union elections. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize, according to the N.L.R.B.

Personally, I’m in favor of unionizing. I think that workers, who aren’t being treated well at their place of employment, should push to form a union. In some cases, the union is the only thing that can make things better for the workers – especially in companies that are strongly anti-union.


CMA Plans Market Investigation Into Mobile Browsers and Cloud Gaming



The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) posted a press release announcing its plans for a market investigation into mobile browsers and cloud gaming. According to the CMA: Apple and Google “hold all the cards” with interventions needed to give innovators and competitors a fair chance to compete in mobile ecosystems.

More specifically, the CMA is consulting on the launch of a market investigation into Apple and Google’s market power in mobile browsers and Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming through its App Store. In parallel, it is also taking enforcement action against Google in relation to its app store payment practices.

Previous to this press release, the CMA held a year-long study of the companies’ mobile ecosystems. The final report was published on June 10, 2022. The study found that Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to excise a stranglehold over these markets, which include operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA said:

“When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards. As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice.”

“We all rely on browsers to use the internet on our phones, and the engines that make them work have a huge bearing on what we can see or do. Right now, choice in this space is severely limited and that has real world impacts – preventing innovation and reducing competition from web apps. We need to give innovative tech firms, may of which are ambitious start-ups, a fair chance to compete.”

“We have always been clear that we will maximize the use of our current tools while we await legislation for the new digital regime. Today’s announcements – alongside the 8 cases currently open against major players in the tech industry, ranging from tackling fake reviews to addressing problems in online advertising – are proof of that in action.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the CMA also announced a traditional competition investigation – which could lead to fines – into conditions Google places on in-app payments in its mobile store. That probe is similar to one the regulator opened into Apple’s App Store last year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple said that it disagrees with some of the CMA’s conclusions and that it aims to work with the British regulator “to explain how our approach promotes competition and choice, while ensuring consumers’ privacy and security are protected.” Google said that it has “reacted quickly to CMA feedback in the past” and would continue to engage with the regulator.

Once again, it appears that big companies like Apple and Google are playing a game. How much can they get away with – and still avoid facing serious consequences – from the regulators of various countries? It seems to me it would be a lot easier for those companies to just comply with various regulators than to fight them.


Apple Grudgingly Complies With Dutch Regulators Over Dating Apps



Apple announced “Further updates on StoreKit External Entitlement for dating apps in the Netherlands storefront”. This comes after pushback by Dutch regulators.

From Apple’s News and Updates site:

Following productive conversations with the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), today we’re introducing additional adjustments to Apple’s plan to comply with the regulator’s order pertaining to dating apps on the App Store in the Netherlands:

Developers of dating apps in the Netherlands can use the StoreKit External Purchase Entitlement, the StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement, or both entitlements.

In accordance with the ACM’s wishes, we’ve made adjustments to the user interface requirements announced this past March for developers who choose to use either or both of the entitlements.

We’ve adjusted the payment processing criteria for developers who wish to use either of the entitlements.

The 3 percent commission discount also applies to in-app purchases the qualify for a lower commission rate (for example, App Store Small Business Program enrollees or subscription services after one year of paid services – both of which already qualify for a 15% commission).

It should be noted that in February of 2022, Apple stated it would charge app developers in the Netherlands, who are using an alternative payment system, a “reduced” commission that is set at 27% net of tax. Apple typically charges 30% commission on purchases made using its In-App Purchase system.

The Verge reported that these rules are not wide-reaching (they only apply to Dutch dating apps) they do show what Apple is willing to do to comply with government regulation – which it could be facing a lot more of as the EU and US gear up to fight tech monopolies, and potentially even force the company to ditch the iPhone’s Lightning port.

The Verge also pointed out part of Apple’s news post that says: “As a reminder, developers of dating apps who want to continue using Apple’s in-app purchase system – which we believe is the safest and most secure way for users to purchase digital goods and services – may do so and no further action is needed.”

Apple continued, “We don’t believe some of these changes are in the best interest of our users’ privacy or data security. Because Apple is committed to constructive engagement with regulators, we’re making the additional changes at the ACM’s request. As we’ve previously said, we disagree with the ACM’s original order and are appealing it.”

Overall, the message Apple appears to be sending is that they are complying with what Dutch regulators want. In the same post, Apple makes it clear it doesn’t really want to make these changes, and will attempt to appeal it.


Apple Improved its Health App for iOS 16



Apple announced that iOS 16 brings a new way to manage, understand, and track your medications, enhancements to Health Sharing, and big updates to Sleep. The Health app was created to help organize your important health information and make it easy to access in a central and secure place.

The Health app puts important information at your fingertips, including health records, medications, labs, activity, and sleep. And it makes it simple to securely share that information. Health collects health and fitness data from your iPhone, the built-in sensors on your Apple Watch, compatible third-party devices, and apps that use HealthKit.

The Health app is built to keep your data secure and protect your privacy. Apple says your data is encrypted and that you are always in control of your health information.

One of the things I found very interesting about the iOS 16 Health updates involves medications. Apple describes it this way:

Health can give you information on medications you’re taking, like what they’re used for, how they work, potential side effects, and drugs interactions. You can receive an alert if there is a critical interaction with medications you’re taking, which can make a medication less effective or cause unexpected and potentially dangerous side effects. You can also learn if there could be side effects from consuming alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana with your medications.

In addition, Apple has added a way for you to be reminded to log your medications, vitamins, and supplements on your iPhone or on your wrist with Apple Watch. It also allows you to securely share your medication information with loved ones. Apple describes it this way:

With the Medications app on Apple Watch, you can get convenient and discreet reminders so you can quickly log medications. You can view charts and highlights in the Health app on iPhone and see more detailed information about when and how consistently you take your medications.

Personally, I can see where this feature can be extremely useful. For example, I have a lot of allergies. On days when I am feeling especially sick from pollen (and/or other allergens) there is a good chance I would forget to take my medication on time. Having my iPhone not only remind me to take it, but also to let me mark the medication as “skipped” or “taken” could make it a lot easier for me to track my medications and supplements.

Both the Interactions feature, and the Medications feature, are currently listed on Apple’s website as “Coming Soon”. We’re going to have to wait a bit before being able to access them.

Apple also updated Mobility, a feature that tracks your mobility metrics. Those metrics can be viewed on Apple Watch and iPhone. You can get alerts if your walking steadiness is low or very low and you’re at an increased risk of falling. I can see where this feature would be important for people who have disabilities that interfere with their ability to walk. Apple describes Mobility this way:

You can view mobility like cardio fitness, walking speed, how fast you climb and descend stairs, and an estimate of your six-minute walk test. You can also get a general assessment of your walking steadiness, classified as OK, low, or very low, just by walking with your iPhone. This would traditionally require a visit to a specialty clinic where you would fill out a questionnaire and have your balance, stability, and risk of falling assessed.

To me, it sounds like Apple put in the effort to make the iPhone and Apple Watch have more functionality for people who have disabilities (myself included). Apple’s iOS 16 brings a new way to manage, understand, and track your medications, enhancements to Health Sharing, and big updates to Sleep. The Health app was created to help organize your important health information and make it easy to access in a central and secure place.

The Health app puts important information at your fingertips, including health records, medications, labs, activity, and sleep. And it makes it simple to securely share that information. Health collects health and fitness data from your iPhone, the built-in sensors on your Apple Watch, compatible third-party devices, and apps that use HealthKit.

The Health app is built to keep your data secure and protect your privacy. Apple says your data is encrypted and that you are always in control of your health information.

One of the things I found very interesting about the iOS 16 Health updates involves medications. Apple describes it this way:

Health can give you information on medications you’re taking, like what they’re used for, how they work, potential side effects, and drugs interactions. You can receive an alert if there is a critical interaction with medications you’re taking, which can make a medication less effective or cause unexpected and potentially dangerous side effects. You can also learn if there could be side effects from consuming alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana with your medications.

In addition, Apple has added a way for you to be reminded to log your medications, vitamins, and supplements on your iPhone or on your wrist with Apple Watch. It also allows you to securely share your medication information with loved ones. Apple describes it this way:

With the Medications app on Apple Watch, you can get convenient and discreet reminders so you can quickly log medications. You can view charts and highlights in the Health app on iPhone and see more detailed information about when and how consistently you take your medications.

Personally, I can see where this feature can be extremely useful. For example, I have a lot of allergies. On days when I am feeling especially sick from pollen (and/or other allergens) there is a good chance I would forget to take my medication on time. Having my iPhone not only remind me to take it, but also to let me mark the medication as “skipped” or “taken” could make it a lot easier for me to track my medications and supplements.

Both the Interactions feature, and the Medications feature, are currently listed on Apple’s website as “Coming Soon”. We’re going to have to wait a bit before being able to access them.

Apple also updated Mobility, a feature that tracks your mobility metrics. Those metrics can be viewed on Apple Watch and iPhone. You can get alerts if your walking steadiness is low or very low and you’re at an increased risk of falling. I can see where this feature would be important for people who have disabilities that interfere with their ability to walk. Apple describes Mobility this way:

You can view mobility like cardio fitness, walking speed, how fast you climb and descend stairs, and an estimate of your six-minute walk test. You can also get a general assessment of your walking steadiness, classified as OK, low, or very low, just by walking with your iPhone. This would traditionally require a visit to a specialty clinic where you would fill out a questionnaire and have your balance, stability, and risk of falling assessed.

To me, it sounds like Apple put in the effort to make the iPhone and Apple Watch have more functionality for people who have disabilities (myself included). In a world where accessibility is often an afterthought, it is great to see Apple improving the Health app in ways that are inclusive.