Developers View Apple’s New Location Policy as Anti-Competitive

Changes to iOS 13 location permissions have upset some third-party developers. Apple is accused of anti-competitive behavior.

As Apple becomes larger and moves into services, they’ve managed to step on the toes of some third party developers. Major players, like Tile and ZenDrive, are upset about changes to iOS 13 location services.

Apple contends that their changes help protect privacy. iOS 13 provides greater transparency about how apps use location services. Apple’s new mobile operating system actually shows a map of where an app has been tracking you. Third-party developers are able to display an explanation of why they’re being tracked. Users have the option to permit location services only while the app is running. Needless to say, such features may have users turning off location services altogether.

Other iOS 13 changes prevent users from being tracked by Bluetooth and WiFi. Apps such as Tile rely on a network of users to locate tagged items. Such changes are clearly to the detriment of Tile and their customers. Similar apps are facing the same challenge.

The anti-competitive accusation has some merit, however, in this case, Apple plays by the same rules. Built-in iOS apps also show a location tracking map. Users can adjust location services for Apple’s apps, just as with any others. Apple doesn’t have equivalent analogues to most of these third-party apps. For example, they don’t make a product similar to Tile. Anti-competitive behavior would be more obvious if Apple made similar products.

A group of third-party developers, including Tile, Life360, ZenDrive and others, have taken this complaint all the way to the top. Tim Cook received an email from the group, contending that Apple has a double standard. Apple has not responded to this grievance.

While it’s possible for these third-party developers to escalate anti-competitive accusations with the Federal Trade Commission, it’s highly unlikely. Apple’s legal resources are difficult to overcome. A more emotional appeal is unlikely to sway Apple, however, it may educate a few consumers as to the benefits of using location tracking.

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