Regulate cell phones in your pockets

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Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs at the R Street Institute and has long resided in Georgia. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.

Georgians’ rights and freedoms are never fully protected while the General Assembly is in session, to paraphrase an old joke.

While many voters certainly sympathize, the truth is a bit more nuanced. There are many conscientious lawmakers within the legislature who strive for positive change, but that doesn’t mean they’re always right; sometimes they are very wrong.

In fact, among some 2,100 bills and resolutions tabled in the 2021 session, more than one were downright excruciating, but at least Georgians can breathe a temporary sigh of relief. The adjourned legislature sine die on March 31, and due to assiduous legislation, the most disturbing bills did not reach the governor’s office.

However, when lawmakers return in 2022, some worrying measures await them, including SB 63 and HB 229– both seem to be the last salvo against “Big Tech”. The proposals, if adopted, would virtually dismantle the predominant paradigm of distributing digital applications that mobile phone users appreciate and take for granted.

Currently, our cell phones come preloaded with a host of apps that allow us to send messages, make calls and check the weather. Still, there are millions of other apps that anyone can download for free or for a small fee. These include Facebook, dating apps, and even some special apps like RunPee, which, you might have guessed, tells you the best time during a movie to run and use the bathroom.

Whether utilitarian or bizarre, apps have turned mobile devices into true supercomputers that can be adapted to the whims of owners, but producing millions of apps comes with serious risks. Some could be incompatible with our mobile phone’s hardware and operating systems, causing our devices to malfunction, and others could be embedded with malware to spy on our activities and even steal our identities or our hard cash. won. Considering the good environment, it wouldn’t be too difficult, as some of our most personal information is stored on our phones.

In view of the very real dangers, designers of operating systems for mobile phones have naturally put in place protective measures against such dangers. Most cell phone owners install apps from approved distribution platforms: Google Play for Android and iOS App Store for iPhone. They are the convenient, reliable and virtual one-stop shops for our devices. Only apps that have been carefully reviewed and found to be safe can be viewed and installed from these distribution platforms, which also provide a secure payment processing system.

This is done, in part, to protect consumers from potentially dangerous applications and to protect their banking information, but it is also part of a private business model that helps fund the supporting infrastructure. Consumers enjoy safe and convenient access to millions of apps, while app developers have a platform to reach millions of users globally, as well as access to a suite of services to create and promote their products. As such, distribution platform owners charge app developers a commission which typically ranges from 15-30 percent, but free apps are not charged.

This hardly limits the options for users. The App Store, for example, currently has nearly 2 million applications available for download, and, per week, about 500 million visitors. Meanwhile, the Google Play Store boasts of about 2.5 million applications.

Despite this, there is a push to enter the app market. Indeed, SB 63 and HB 229 seek to serve two main purposes: to force private companies to authorize apps on their devices from other distribution platforms and to authorize the use of third-party payment systems. Indeed, the legislation would allow large application developers to access certain customer bases of digital devices, while avoiding payments to the App Store and its guarantees. But this legislative move could create serious privacy and security concerns by forcing creators of mobile device operating systems to allow the use of uncontrolled apps and payment systems by unscrupulous developers and merchants. or at least irresponsible.

In addition, the bills would essentially nullify long-standing contractual agreements between owners of digital app distribution platforms and developers that have helped increase the number of apps and increase access to them. affordable price. These bills appear to be unnecessary government interference in private enterprise and interposition into voluntary trade agreements that could prove to be a disaster for mobile users.

In view of all of this, perhaps the worn and light joke about the security of our rights and freedoms should be changed. Perhaps it should read: Georgians’ rights and freedoms – and even the cellphones in their pockets – are never entirely secure while the General Assembly is in session.

Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs at the R Street Institute and has long resided in Georgia. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.


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