The May 2022 Developers Alliance US Policy Update
Congress Continues to Debate Tearing Down the Tech Ecosystem
Policymakers in the states and in Washington continue to explore avenues to rein in what they see as harmful practices by the tech industry. While Capitol Hill activity in this arena has slowed a bit as attention turns to guns, inflation, and baby formula, the agencies and states are continuing their probes. S. 2992, the “American Innovation and Choice Online Act” continues to be the focal point for many on the Hill. There are indications that some Democrats who supported the legislation during its committee markup harbor concerns about the bill’s intended targets, and impacts on privacy and cybersecurity. The NTIA and FTC/DOJ have jumped into the fray, issuing separate requests for comment on tech business practices. Finally, a case involving a social media censorship law out of Texas made its way to the Supreme Court where the law was blocked from taking effect on May 31.The Alliance continues to encourage a broader discussion of how destructive these proposals would be for the app ecosystem.
On May 25, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), with the support of Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced S. 4309, the “Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act.” The bill’s primary objective is to ensure user data is portable, making it easier for consumers to collect their data from one platform and transfer it to another. While the bill seeks to target only the largest platforms, it will create headaches for developers and consumers downstream. It would effectively make end-to-end encryption obsolete due to its requirement that platforms maintain third-party accessible interfaces for the transfer of user data to a user or competing platform. It would render cutting edge business practices useless since it requires companies to collaborate in a non-discriminatory fashion. Finally, the legislation does not take into account the apps that depend on the targeted platforms, or the companies using their APIs. The bill is not currently scheduled for committee hearing or vote.
In late March, a petition containing the names of 15,000 software industry advocates was sent to Capitol Hill urging Congress to have a dialogue with developers before advancing legislation that would harm the app ecosystem. Some in Congress have shown an interest in breaking up big tech, which would have many unintended and harmful consequences for downstream developers. Bills have been introduced in Congress that would threaten market access and existing app business models for companies of all sizes, and notably, shift the burden and liability of data privacy and security compliance on those least equipped to bear it.
“As currently written, these bills would fragment features that work for us, make it harder to advertise and market our products, and vastly increase the influence of bureaucracy. This will add needless complexity and costs that will make it more difficult for us to get our apps to consumers.” – Save Our Apps, Developers Alliance Petition to Congress
The Developers Alliance submitted a filing to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration detailing how the mobile app ecosystem is competitive, balanced, and plays a critical role in the economy.
NTIA sought the public’s input on the state of competition in the mobile app ecosystem, the factors affecting app development and distribution, and active ways to increase competition, through government or private sector action. In our submission, we explained the markets for apps and games across all consumer devices are interconnected and can only be understood when considering the ecosystem in its entirety.
“By any measure, the app ecosystem is tremendously competitive, supporting millions of software professionals, billions of consumers, and a global technology product chain,” stated Bruce Gustafson, Developers Alliance President and CEO. “While we know there are a small group of successful developers that want changes that would benefit their businesses, the vast majority of developers want an ecosystem that serves everyone equally – the one they’ve already helped build.”
On April 21, the Developers Alliance, along with other leading industry peers, submitted a joint filing in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s and the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s request for information on merger enforcement. In our comments we laid out to two agencies how critical our role is in the U.S. economy, and small- and medium-sized businesses often depend on acquisitions by larger companies to grow.
The Developers Alliance’s President and CEO, Bruce Gustafson, said, “Success in the digital economy is a game of both innovation and scale. While some entrepreneurs have the skills, appetite, and resources for both, many others prefer to be acquired by growth experts so their ideas can reach a mass market. Far from harming consumers and entrepreneurs, existing M&A guidelines have been a positive contributor to the software companies success.”
Developer Alliance president and CEO, Bruce Gustafson, compared a proposed regulation in the EU that would enable app users to be monitored in secret, with a law in Texas that would prohibit large social media platforms from censoring users. Both could have major impacts for developers – in the EU, devs would be forced to play gatekeeper on who can access what, while in Texas social media companies would be forced to host everyone on their platforms. Neither are good ideas and will only add to the burdens devs are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
The Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Texas law from taking effect. The court could hear a case on the issue again on the law’s constitutional merits. The proposed EU regulation begins an arduous process of being vetted by various policymaking bodies, and a decision is not expected to occur for at least a year.