Europe’s Assault on Big Tech Continues

Over the past year, European lawmakers have taken such a confrontational approach to big tech that it makes their American trustbusting counterparts look like kittens. This trend continued when the European Commission, the European Unions executive branch, announced a Statement of Objections, the first step toward an antitrust suit, against Apple over its Apple Pay system used by billions of consumers across the globe each year. 

While such moves against Apple dovetail with growing hostility toward big tech on both sides of the Atlantic, such outright amenity could deny consumers access to a secure and convenient payment processing system. Perhaps most egregious is that the EU Commission failed to consider this in their objections to Apple’s paying, revealing just how little regard they have for the economic welfare of the citizens they serve and their complete subservience to a big is bad mentality.

In its Statement of Objections, the EU Commission has argued that “the decision by Apple to prevent mobile wallets app developers from accessing the necessary hardware and software” was anticompetitive and designed to advantage Apple Pay. The Statement of Objections continues, claiming “Apple’s dominant position in the market for mobile wallets on its operating system iOS, restricts competition, by reserving access to NFC technology to Apple Pay. This has an exclusionary effect on competitors and leads to less innovation and less choice for consumers for mobile wallets on iPhones.” 

The EU Commissions Statement of Objections follows the introduction of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which would ban self-preferencing, mandate interoperability, and prohibit targeted advertisements. These provisions, absent an antitrust suit against Apple, represent a concerted effort in Brussels to rein in big tech and rewrite the rules governing their operation. 

Observers must note that the EU’s Statement of Objections to Apple Pay ignores the tangible benefits it offers consumers, particularly in cybersecurity and data protection. Owing to substantial investments in data protection, Apple has been able to develop one of the most advanced, secure, and widely accepted payment processing systems in the world. 

Unlike transactions with cash or card, payments on Apple Pay are not just encrypted, but consumer financial information is then re-encrypted with a “developer-specific key before the transaction information is sent to the developer or payment processor.” 

These measures mean that vendors do not have access to financial information, and Apple does not retain any of the data. Finally, consumers must also authenticate every transaction with a PIN, fingerprint, or showing their face.

Such protections make it unlikely that cybercriminals can steal financial information from consumers or make an unauthorized transaction from a user’s phone. These protections would not be possible if Apple could not leverage its significant financial resources to invest in Research and Development.

Requiring Apple to share its hardware and software with third-party developers could also create unnecessary vulnerabilities. With access to such information, it’s entirely plausible that nefarious actors could create backdoors into Apple Pay, allowing cyber criminals access to sensitive financial and personal information and allowing them to steal consumer identities. This is particularly problematic because governments should be legislating to make it harder for criminals to operate in the digital space, not easier. 

While passing new laws to reign in big tech might seem politically popular in an era of suspicion and hostility toward big tech, lawmakers must be aware of the wider ramifications of such decisions. The EU’s recent Statement of Objection is no different. Cracking down on Apple for its Apple Pay processing system will only deny consumers the option to use a widely accepted and highly secure payment method.  Any movement to change how Apple operates could see these benefits lost and consumers facing the wild west when making payments.

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