The Developers Alliance January 2022 US Policy Update
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a markup on January 20th for S. 2992, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. The bill advanced out of Committee by a 16-6 vote, with members on both sides of the aisle expressing concerns with the language as well as support for the bill — often at the same time. Major concerns on the bill discussed include:
the obvious targeting of specific companies (as opposed to markets as a whole),
the negative impact the legislation would have on national security measures,
and leverage it would provide US tech-rivals such as China among other issues.
Despite advancing out of committee, the bill still faces the challenge of getting support from the narrowly divided Senate as a whole. House Members stated that they hope there will be more hearings on the bill to further examine its full impact. The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a similar version of this legislation. Additionally, a markup on the Open App Markets Act (S. 2710) is expected in the coming weeks. Developers Alliance plans to closely watch these bills and any related House legislation has given the vast impact they would have on members.
At the state level, bills attacking app stores, developer tools, and services continue to be introduced. A number of legislatures are continuing to push for harmful reforms, claiming that they are meant to benefit the developer community. Developers Alliance has weighed in on many of these proposals in the last year and continues to oppose any bills with language that would cause unnecessary damage to our industry and the consumers we serve.
As members of congress re-evaluate competition rules within the tech space and place mergers under increased scrutiny, the number of mergers filing requests that the FTC reportedly reviewed in 2021 more than doubled from that of prior years. Despite wanting to raise the bar for review the FTC currently is struggling to handle its existing workload. The agency’s timeline of only 30 days to decide if they would like to further investigate or block a transaction is causing even further problems. Developers Alliance has supported congress in its efforts to provide increased FTC funding to ensure proper review. Raising the bar for developers, delaying the review process, and making mergers more difficult at a time when the FTC is barely able to maintain its current workload particularly harms small developer-led companies benefitting from these mergers.
Groups across the tech sector and numerous chambers of commerce continue to push Congress for a comprehensive federal privacy bill.
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Research & Technology Subcommittee held a markup this month on the Promoting Digital Privacy Technologies Act (HR 847). The bill seeks “…to support research on privacy enhancing technologies and promote responsible data use.” The bill’s sponsors hope that it will promote technology that protects consumers’ personally identifiable information.
The Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability Act (S.3521), also known as the TLDR Act, was introduced this month. The bill is “bipartisan and bicameral legislation requiring that online companies make their terms of service contracts more accessible, transparent, and understandable for consumers.” If enacted, failure to comply with the legislation would lead to FTC enforcement of civil penalties. The bill is seen as an effort to make legal rights disclosures, data breach notifications, and contractual terms more digestible to consumers when downloading and interacting with apps and services. Developers Alliance has long supported a privacy ‘nutrition label’ on products and sees this bill as a step in making that industry standard. While we find the bill still needs some fine-tuning with regards to how developers are impacted, the legislation, on the whole, seems to strike a positive balance for Congress’s efforts in making sure the business needs of tech balance what works for consumers.
Reps. Castor (D-FL) and Schakowsky (D-IL) sent letters to multiple privacy compliance organizations to gain more insight as to how these groups operate under the FTC’s Safe Harbor programs. The Representatives provided organizations a list of questions, stating they are “exploring ways in which Congress can strengthen COPPA and the COPPA Rule” to better protect children’s privacy. Answers are due back to the members by the end of January.