Tech

Sen. Ted Cruz said he spoke to Apple CEO Tim Cook for 40 minutes about antitrust bill

Key Points
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he spoke to Apple CEO Tim Cook for 40 minutes on Wednesday about antitrust legislation to be debated the next day.
  • The phone call from Apple's CEO directly to a legislator on the key Senate committee considering changes to antitrust law signals how important the company considers the specifics of the planned reforms.
  • Cruz said that Cook expressed concern that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act could prevent Apple from improving its products by preventing the company from implementing privacy and security features.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, questions U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger during the Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing on "Oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police Following the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, Part III", in Washington, January 5, 2022.
Tom Williams | Pool | Reuters

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that he spoke to Apple CEO Tim Cook for 40 minutes on Wednesday about antitrust legislation to be debated the next day.

The phone call from Apple's CEO directly to a legislator on the key Senate committee considering changes to antitrust law signals how important the company considers the specifics of the planned reforms — and how fiercely it will defend the way its App Store for iPhones operates.

Punchbowl News reported earlier this week that Cook was making calls and scheduling meetings with senators about the legislation.

The American Innovation and Online Choice Act is intended to prevent dominant tech platforms from favoring their own products over others. The Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Cruz serves, voted 16-6 on a bipartisan basis to advance the bill to the full Senate on Thursday.

If passed as written, one legal reform would require Apple to permit sideloading, or the ability for users to install apps without going through Apple's App Store, allowing app makers to avoid the App Store's 15% to 30% fees.

VIDEO1:5201:52
Lawmakers look to break up Big Tech with new antitrust bill

Cruz said that Cook expressed concern that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act could prevent Apple from improving its products by preventing the company from implementing privacy and security features. "I spent about 40 minutes on the phone [Wednesday] with Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who expressed significant concerns about the bill," the senator said.

"One issue that he raised, that I thought was a reasonable issue, was a concern that the bill would erect obstacles to Apple giving consumers the ability to opt out of apps monitoring what they're doing online where they're going, and what's occurring on their phone," Cruz said.

An Apple representative declined to comment on Cook's call with Cruz, but the senator's account of Cook's concerns is similar to a letter Apple sent to the Senate committee earlier this week, in which the company said that if iPhone users and consumers were allowed to install software directly from the internet, it could lead to a wave of malware.

"Apple offers consumers the choice of a platform protected from malicious and dangerous code. The bills eliminate that choice," Timothy Powderly, Apple senior director of government affairs, wrote in the letter.

"I want to clarify for the record that I don't read the language of this bill as applying to or as being intended to apply to tech companies giving consumers the ability to to exercise choice or to opt out of privacy-invasive policies," Cruz said, in defense of the legislation.

Cruz said his main concern is preventing online platforms from censoring or curating public debate, a topic that is more relevant to other big tech companies than Apple, which doesn't operate a social network.

The American Innovation and Online Choice Act is written in a way that would affect many other large tech companies, not just those that run app stores. Apple and several other tech companies, including Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter have disclosed they are lobbying against the bill.

Some tech companies support the bill, such as Spotify, which has fought Apple's App Store rules over customer communications and in-app payments.

A second bill being debated in the Senate, the Open Markets App Act, would mainly affect Apple and Google's mobile app stores.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect Spotify supports the legislation.