Apple Should Be Required To Allow 'Sideloading,' Biden Administration Says

The Biden administration is calling for new laws that would revamp the mobile marketplace, including measures that would require Apple and Google to allow mobile device users to “sideload” apps, meaning to download apps from sources other than Apple's app store and the Google Play Store.

“While retaining appropriate latitude for legitimate privacy, security, and safety measures, Congress should enact laws and relevant agencies should consider measures (such as rulemaking) designed to open up distribution of lawful apps, by prohibiting anticompetitive restrictions or barriers to the direct downloading of applications,” the Commerce Department wrote this week in the report, “Competition in the Mobile Application Ecosystem.”

The report grew out of President Joe Biden's 2021 executive order aimed at promoting competition.

Apple doesn't allow sideloading, arguing that the practice could create security risks.

Google permits sideloading, but is facing multiple lawsuits over allegations that its policies make sideloading impractical.

“Developers face significant hurdles to get a chance to compete for users in the ecosystem, and these users in the ecosystem, and these hurdles are due to corporate choices rather than technical necessities,” the report states.

The proposed “Open App Markets Act,” introduced in 2021 by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), would have required Apple and Google to allow users to download apps from sources other than the official app marketplaces.

The Commerce Department also recommends that platforms allow outside browsers to be integrated into mobile devices and operating systems, and that Apple and Google provide “greater transparency” into their standards regarding outside apps.

The report notes that both companies have defended their screening policies as necessary to protect privacy, but suggests that privacy issues should be addressed through legislation.

“As the need to protect privacy has been the stated rationale behind some Google and Apple policies that implicate app competition, Congress should enact comprehensive federal privacy protections ... to provide basic, across-the-board protections,” the report states.

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