A Quiet May Foretells A Busy Tech Summer In DC

The Developers Alliance May 2021 US Policy Update.


App Stores

The Developers Alliance has filed comments with multiple states including Rhode Island, Louisiana, and Arizona following the introduction of forced app distribution bills. These bills seek to either restrict or abolish the ways in which apps and software can be distributed through marketplaces. We expect more bills of this nature to be discussed at the state level in the coming weeks in light of the Epic vs. Apple litigation surrounding app stores. The two tech giants have been battling it out over Epic’s protest of using the iOS App Store payment system for in-app purchases on their Fortnite app, contrary to their contract. While a decision from the court is expected soon we are expecting parties to appeal regardless of the result, likely dragging the case out further.

We at the Developers Alliance plan to continue educating state lawmakers on the harm to the developer community bills of this nature would bring. Developers benefit greatly from the existence of app stores and the services they offer. Efforts to over-regulate them when not necessary would destabilize the ecosystem to the detriment of the app economy.

COPPA, Again

While kids’ screentime has been exponentially growing for decades, the pandemic has caused it to skyrocket. As such, kids’ data privacy is an issue that legislators always have front and center. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) re-introduced the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, a bipartisan effort to review data privacy provisions for children and teens. The proposed law seeks to amend the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by “prohibiting internet companies from collecting personal information from anyone 13-to-15-years old without the user’s consent”, expanding on the previous prohibition for kids under 13. This will essentially create an online “Eraser Button” by requiring companies to permit users to eliminate personal information from a child or teen. Finally, it will implement a ‘Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Minors’ that limits the collection of personal information from teens.” It further would establish a division at the FTC specifically responsible for “addressing the privacy of children and minors and marketing directed at [them].” The bill is significant as it would change the data collection standard on children to reasonable knowledge from the existing one of actual knowledge, thus creating a more stringent standard of liability for developers to comply with.

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the bill on May 18th, entitled “Protecting Kids Online: Internet Privacy and Manipulative Marketing.” At the hearing, members expressed their concern surrounding the creation of kids-only platforms as well as apps sharing children’s data, specifically with regards to companies that are believed to be sending the data overseas.

On The Privacy Horizon…

Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act of 2021. The bill seeks to “improve the transparency of online platforms, strengthen consumers’ options when a data breach occurs and ensure companies comply with privacy policies that protect consumers.” The proposed bill would give consumers the right to opt out of data sharing, give users greater control over their data usage overall, mandate plain language terms of service, and provide various remedies and notifications for breaches. The Developers Alliance believes that a federal data privacy policy is necessary for a cohesive set of laws and welcomes reforms to this space to the extent that developers may still effectively monetize the apps they build. We look forward to working with the Senators’ offices on this legislation as it develops. 

Welcoming The New FTC Chair?

Progressive tech critic Lina Khan is expected to be sworn in as President Biden’s selection for Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. Her nomination received bipartisan support from members of the Senate Commerce Committee, with all but four GOP members opposing her candidacy. Some Senators as well as the tech world are concerned about her support of over-regulation of the industry and expressed desire to break apart tech platforms to the detriment of devs and the companies they run. Khan would be the youngest ever to serve at the helm of the FTC if confirmed.

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By Sarah Richard

Developers Alliance Policy Counsel & Head of US Policy

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