Apple Defends No-Sideloading Policy, Blasts Proposed EU Law

In an attempt to fend off new regulation in Europe, an Apple executive this week pressed the company's argument that allowing iPhone and iPad users to “sideload” apps by downloading them directly from developers' websites would create new security risks.

“Sideloading is a cybercriminal's best friend,” Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi said at Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon. “Requiring sideloading on iPhones would be a gold rush for the malware industry.”

Apple's and Google's policies about sideloading have increasingly come in for scrutiny this year, as policymakers eye whether Silicon Valley companies hinder competition.

Apple famously doesn't allow sideloading on iPhones or iPads.

Google allows Android users to sideload, but a coalition of attorneys general alleged in a recent lawsuit that the company obstructs the process.

“Google makes the sideloading process unnecessarily cumbersome and impractical by adding superfluous, misleading, and discouraging security warnings and by deterring users by requiring them to grant permission multiple times for a single app installation,” the attorneys general wrote in a complaint filed in July. “The effect of Google’s conduct is to practically eliminate competition in Android app distribution.”

(Google also faces similar lawsuits by consumers and developers.)

Three U.S. Senators recently proposed a bill that would require Apple and Google to allow mobile customers to sideload apps. In the U.K., the proposed Digital Markets Act would also require the companies to allow sideloading.

Federighi criticized that provision in the proposed legislation, saying that requirement “could force every iPhone user into a landscape of professional con artists, constantly trying to fool them.”

“Malware from sideloaded apps can jeopardize government systems, infect enterprise networks, public utilities, the list goes on,” he added. “So even if you never sideload, your iPhone and data are less safe in a world where Apple is forced to allow it.”

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