The Commerce Department calls Google and Apple the “gatekeepers” of mobile apps.

Biden administration officials also took aim in a new report, describing the pair as the “gatekeepers” of mobile apps trusted by consumers and businesses. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) says consumers “should have more control over their devices” and says more legislation is likely needed to increase competition in the app ecosystem. The agency also claims that “the current ecosystem is not a level playing field.”

In a report titled “Competition in the Mobile App Ecosystem” (), NTIA says it has pinpointed two key policy issues that stand in the way of creating a more competitive app ecosystem. First, it says users are “mostly” unable to get apps outside of the app store model run by Google and Apple. The report notes that this is not a widely available option for many iOS users, and that alternative app stores such as the Amazon Appstore and the Samsung Galaxy Store “are not currently viable enough to provide strong competition.”

NTIA says the second problem it found is that Apple and Google are putting up technical barriers that can make it harder for developers to compete. This can include factors such as restrictions on the performance of programs and routing programs through “slow and non-transparent review processes,” the report said.

The agency found that while the current mobile app ecosystem has some advantages, especially when it comes to security measures, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. She added that there is still room for strengthening privacy and security in a more competitive market. To get to this point, NTIA proposes several changes.

First, it says users should have more control over what they do with their devices, including the ability to set their apps as default (already possible to some extent on Android and iOS), thereby hiding or removing pre-installed apps and the ability to use third-party app stores. NTIA says app store operators should not prioritize their apps in search results.

It should also include measures to prevent restrictions on sideloading, web apps and other app stores, “while preserving the appropriate freedom of privacy and security safeguards,” the agency said. In addition, he said, “restrictions on in-app purchases should be addressed,” preventing app store operators from forcing developers to use their payment systems. Google has been targeting certain Android apps, while Apple last year began allowing certain app developers to manage payments and accounts.

“We’re pleased that the report recognizes the importance of consumer privacy, data security and convenience,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement to Engadget. “However, we respectfully disagree with the report’s many conclusions that ignore our investments in innovation, privacy and security, all of which contribute to why consumers love iPhone and create a level playing field for small developers.” secure and reliable platform.

In a filing with the NTIA, Apple said it “competes with other products that don’t offer the same level of protection and instead choose to allow customers to load unverified code onto their devices, which independent research shows leads to more malware and less privacy.” . The company also said that if its “security and privacy protections were no longer regulated, it would reduce competition and consumer choice.”

Engadget has reached out to Google for comment.

The NTIA report is being presented to the White House to strengthen competition in the technology industry. “My vision for an economy is one where everyone—small and medium-sized businesses, moms and pop shops, entrepreneurs—can compete on a level playing field with the biggest companies,” said President Joe Biden. The Wall Street Journal. op-ed.

Congress has been trying to increase competition in the mobile app ecosystem. The proposed legislation was labeled a failure last session despite receiving bipartisan support. This would have required Apple and Google to allow developers to use third-party app stores and payment systems.

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