Apple defends parts pairing as Oregon mulls right-to-repair bill

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Oregon could soon becoming the latest state to pass right to repair legislation. Last month, Google lent its support in an open letter, calling Senate Bill 1596 “a compelling model for other states to follow.” The bill, sponsored by a sextet of state senators and representatives, draws in part from California SB 244, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in October.

Apple openly supported this bill – a rare endorsement from a tech giant that likes to play close to the vest. Cupertino, however, is less enthusiastic about certain inclusions in the Oregon law that were absent from the California law.

“Apple agrees with the vast majority of Senate Bill 1596,” John Perry, Apple’s senior director of Secure System Design, said in testimony before state lawmakers this week. “I met Senator [Janeen] Sollman on several occasions and I appreciate his willingness to engage in open dialogue. Senate Bill 1596 is a step forward in ensuring that Oregonians, including me, can get their devices repaired easily and affordably.

Apple’s main sticking point with the bill concerns a policy known as “coin sharing.” iFixit and PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) criticized the policy, which requires the use of first-party components during the repair process. PIRG, which asked the FTC to ban the practice late last year, called it “one of the most pernicious obstacles to the right to repair.”

Apple, in turn, has strongly defended the practice, insisting that using third-party parts could present a security issue for users.

“We believe the bill’s current language regarding coin pairing will undermine the safety, security, and privacy of Oregonians by requiring device manufacturers to authorize the use of parts of unknown origin in consumer devices,” Perry said. “It’s important to understand why Apple and other smartphone makers use coin pairing. This is not about making the repair more difficult. This is in fact about facilitating access to repair while guaranteeing the security of your device and the data stored on it. Pairing parts also helps ensure that your device performs optimally and critical components like the battery operate safely after a repair.

Shortly after the California bill passed, iFixit pointed out that “seven iPhone parts can trigger problems during repairs” in a New York Times article. This figure is more than double the three identified in 2017 and marks an increase “of around 20% per year since 2016, when a single repair caused a problem”.

The document continues: “New batteries can trigger warning messages, replacement screens can disable a phone’s brightness settings, and replacement selfie cameras can malfunction. »

The part of the bill pointed out by Apple reads in part:

An original equipment manufacturer must make available to an owner or independent repairer, on fair and reasonable terms, the documentation, tool or part necessary to deactivate and reset any electronic security lock or other security feature of consumer electronic equipment that is or must be disabled or reset when diagnosing, servicing, or repairing the consumer electronic equipment.
. . .

An original equipment manufacturer may not use parts matching to: (A) Prevent or inhibit an independent repairer or owner from installing or enabling the operation of a part or component of the original equipment manufacturer. replacement of consumer electronic equipment, including a replacement part or component that the original equipment manufacturer has not approved; (B) Reduce the functionality or performance of consumer electronic equipment; or (C) cause consumer electronic equipment to display unnecessary or misleading alerts or warnings about unidentified parts, particularly if the alerts or warnings cannot be ignored.

In a recent conversation with TechCrunch, co-sponsor Senator Sollman describes closed-door meetings in which Apple discussed its concerns with the parts-matching provision, describing its frustration, while calling the giant material of “very private” in its dealings with the bill.

“People were coming to me with potential changes, and I felt like I was playing the carrier game, like I was the one who should be proposing the changes, not Apple itself,” Sollman says. “It is very frustrating. We have taken into account many of the changes proposed by Apple in the California bill. There remained two things that concerned them. We addressed one because it created some ambiguity in the bill. And so I think the first part is that. . . They will stand on the hill while matching the pieces.

In his testimony, Perry expressed particular concern about biometric sensors — a category that includes things like fingerprint readers and Face ID cameras.

“Under the current wording of SB 1596 on coin matching, Apple could be forced to allow third-party biometric sensors to operate in our devices without any form of authentication, which could lead to unauthorized access to data personal information of an individual,” noted the Apple employee. “This would be a great disservice to consumers, not only in Oregon, but around the world, because we do not have the ability to restrict such provisions regionally.”

Certainly, the concerns raised by Perry could potentially apply to the “replacement selfie cameras” discussed in the Times article.

For her part, Senator Sollman calls coin pairing “anti-consumer.”

“I’m not trying to stick to [Apple] or whatever,” she said. “I’m trying to make this consumer friendly and so we can have a policy that will work. I think we got there with Google, and I believe others will soon [go public], Also. I think Apple is probably going to stand firm on its coin pairing, as that would be the only policy in the US that doesn’t remove that.

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