Some App Store developers call Apple’s privacy changes in iOS 13 ‘anti-competitive’

App Store teaser

Apple is making some big changes to iOS 13, including alterations to privacy in the mobile operating system, but some App Store developers aren’t happy with them.

The Information has the report on Friday, outlining how some App Store developers have already reached out to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, and voiced their opinions on the upcoming privacy changes to iOS 13. Apple has already stated that the upcoming changes are meant to help protect the privacy of its users, but some developers say these changes will negatively impact their business.

In an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook last Friday, the leaders of seven app developers outlined their concerns about the company’s new restrictions on location-tracking apps in a forthcoming version of the iOS operating system, according to a copy of the email reviewed by The Information. They accuse Apple of having a “double standard” for how apps can use location data in its new operating system.

Specifically, Apple is making changes to the way permission for location tracking works in iOS 13. With the changes, there will no longer be an option to let users select “Always Allow” for these apps. Instead, there will be “Don’t Allow”, “Allow Once”, or “Allow While Using the App”.

The developers are behind some of the most popular apps out there:

  • Zenly
  • Arity
  • Tile
  • Twenty
  • Zendrive
  • Life360
  • Happn

Unsurprisingly, these developers who have raised concerns for their business are upset that the “Always Allow” option isn’t available as easily as it used to be.

(Users will be able to choose “Always Allow” within the Settings app, within the Privacy section on a per-app basis.)

These app developers believe that users may think their apps are broken, unless the user is “savvy enough” to to dig into the Privacy section within the Settings app and make changes.

The app developers point out that Apple’s own apps do not need to ask for these specific permissions, while third-party apps are essentially left to the wolves.

Like you, we are committed to ensuring that privacy is a top priority, but are concerned that the current implementation will create user confusion that actually undermines this goal,” the e-mail to Cook reads. “The changes also have the added effect of removing critical geolocation functionality while simultaneously not applying to Apple’s own apps, some of which compete with the products we develop.

And here’s Apple’s response to the developers:

We take responsibility for ensuring that apps are held to a high standard for privacy, security and content because nothing is more important than maintaining the trust of our users. Users trust Apple–and that trust is critical to how we operate a fair, competitive store for developer app distribution. Any changes we make to hardware, software or system level apps is in service to the user, their privacy and providing them the best products and ecosystem in the world.

The devs are also taking exception to a change that Apple is making to features tied to the PushKit VoIP API, which is designed to let some apps run in the background. Some developers have taken advantage of that in all the wrong ways, so Apple is planning on restricting that access in iOS 13.

For what it’s worth, Apple has told some of the developers that it will work with them and try to find an alternative to the features that are going away.

Where do you stand on this? Think Apple is in the right with these changes?