Apple Overstates Security Benefits of App Store Business Model, Expert Testifies – Courthouse News Service


Apple could open up its App Store on iOS to third parties without incurring extra security woes, Harvard professor James Mickens said Friday.

This March 19, 2018, file photo shows Apple’s App Store app in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Apple exaggerates the security benefits of its App Store model, and its app review process provides only  “minimal additional security,” prominent computer scientist and former Microsoft researcher James Mickens said Friday as he took the stand for Fortnite maker Epic Games in its antitrust fight with Apple.

In addition to disputing the relevant market at issue in the case, Apple has hung its hat on the idea that its success depends on its strict policing of the App Store, including a rigorous process for vetting apps to curtail malware, copycats and scam applications.

The Harvard professor challenged this assertion Friday, telling U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonalzez Rogers, who is hearing the case in place of a jury, that the bulk of Apple’s much-touted security benefits come from Apple’s operating system itself, not app review.

“App review provides minimal additional security benefits compared to the security benefits that an operating system alone can provide. The safety of your experience on an iPhone is largely guaranteed by iOS, not the app review process,” Mickens said.

Epic wants to upend the App Store business model that requires app developers to use its in-app payment (IAP) system, and takes a 30% cut of every in-app purchase of digital goods.

Epic tried to circumvent these rules in August 2020 by installing a “hotfix” to the iOS version of Fortnite, allowing users to pay it directly for in-app purchases instead of going through Apple and getting Epic banned from the App Store. Epic answered with a federal antitrust lawsuit that claims Apple is foreclosing competition in the market for iOS app distribution. 

Last week, Gonzalez Rogers heard from Trystan Kosmynka, head of app review for Apple, who characterized the process as the best way to guarantee a safe and trusted App Store. Without it, the store would be a wild west of phishing, malware and explicit…

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