Harming Competition and Consumers under the Guise of Protecting Privacy: An Analysis of Apple’s iOS 14 Policy Updates

27 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2021 Last revised: 1 Aug 2022

See all articles by D. Daniel Sokol

D. Daniel Sokol

USC Gould School of Law; USC Marshall School of Business

Feng Zhu

Harvard University - Harvard Business School

Date Written: June 14, 2021


Apple’s iOS 14 update represents an anti-competitive strategy disguised as a privacy-protecting measure. Apple now prohibits non-Apple apps from using information essential to providing relevant, personalized advertising, without explicit user opt-in. And users may opt-in only after they are shown an ominous and misleading prompt about “tracking,” one that Apple’s own apps and services need not display, because consumers are automatically “opted in” to Apple’s own tracking. Apple’s policy will have the pernicious effects of enhancing the dominance of iOS among mobile operating systems and the dominance of its own apps and services within the iOS ecosystem, while reducing consumer choice and devastating the free-app ecosystem.

This paper explains: (i) Apple’s dominance in mobile OSs and the competitive dynamics in the industry, including the critical role that personalized advertising plays in today’s mobile app ecosystem; (ii) how Apple’s iOS 14 updates dramatically alter today’s mobile OS ecosystem, wrongfully preference Apple’s own products and services, and help Apple protect and augment its dominance over iOS and more broadly over mobile OSs; and (iii) why such actions harm competition, and by extension, iOS users and consumers more broadly.

Keywords: ios, antitrust, competition policy, apple, platform, two sided market, antitrust economics

JEL Classification: D42, K21, L12, L40, L86

Suggested Citation

Sokol, D. Daniel and Zhu, Feng, Harming Competition and Consumers under the Guise of Protecting Privacy: An Analysis of Apple’s iOS 14 Policy Updates (June 14, 2021). USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS21-27, USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 21-27, Cornell Law Review Online, 101(3) pp. 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3852744 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3852744

D. Daniel Sokol (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

USC Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA California 90089
United States

Feng Zhu

Harvard University - Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 431
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=14938

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