Happy New Year Developers!

While 2021 was a busy year for tech policy, 2022 is already looking like it is going to be busier than ever.

As our CEO said in his 2021 year-end post, politicians everywhere have identified ‘Big Tech’ as the enemy, and consider it an easy political punching bag for 2022. What does this mean for you? Tech regulation efforts are like COVID – they’re not going away any time soon. Politicians are eagerly looking to regulate the space you work in, regardless of whether or not those regulations are welcome, necessary, or helpful to you. 

As we have said before, the government stepping in to provide guidance can be a good thing in some cases. For example, the $65 billion worth of broadband infrastructure investment that was passed last year is set to begin rolling out in the coming months. On the policy end, developers have continually told us that clarity on regulation surrounding privacy would be beneficial to them. Congress recognizes this need and is beginning to weigh passing a federal privacy law complete with determining how it would be enforced and how children and teens’ privacy will be treated. Crafting a comprehensive, effective law does take time — and we don’t want the process being rushed for the sake of simply having one on the books. Members seem to be thoughtfully (and bipartisanly) considering options and weighing decisions, and we hope that the coming months will allow us to further engage with them to ensure that whatever law is inevitably passed works for both regulators and developers alike.

Also of consideration in the privacy law sphere is addressing how the government plans to handle the (now invalid) Privacy Shield agreement following the 2020 Schrems II decision. Negotiations continue between US and EU counterparts and a resolution for data processing between jurisdictions is expected to be released as soon as it is reached.

The big-ticket item from 2021 that is not leaving in 2022 is the efforts to police competition within the tech space. The proposed legislation that continues to get traction in Congress includes provisions for the government to change the legal standards for mergers in an effort that would stop many acquisitions within the tech space, creating anti-self-preferencing rules that would effectively eliminate consumer-friendly products and services, and establishing rules that seek to disassemble app stores and harm developer tools and services. 

Additionally, app stores have been, and will continue to be, under fire on the state level with app store bills popping up in a variety of jurisdictions. These bills seek to mandate side-loading and third-party app stores and require outside payment processors. Lawmakers at both the state and federal level are promoting these bills in what they claim is an attempt to help small businesses, however in the process they are ordering unnecessary restrictions on developers that hinder preferred business practices and create a host of concerns regarding privacy and security for consumers. 

We are now in the second full year of Biden’s presidency and nominations to a variety of cabinet positions still need to be filled. Top posts at the FCC, FTC, and NTIA are expected to be soon filled despite the inability to confirm appointees last year. The FTC, now with tech-critic Lina Khan at the helm, is seeking to become more engaged in tech matters. Aside from policing privacy abuses, they are aspiring to expand their powers to address algorithmic biases via rulemakings. Regulating developer algorithms has been discussed in light of both Francis Haugen’s Meta testimony and the ongoing desire for Section 230 reform, and has increasingly gained traction.

It may feel like the 2020 elections were just yesterday, however, 2022 is also the year of Congressional midterm elections. The majority of these strong anti-tech reforms — specifically on the administrative level — are of course dependent on the players in power. Historically, the incumbent president’s party does not fair well in mid-term years. This leaves Democrats with the real concern that they may lose seats in Congress, thus jeopardizing their agenda. As such, Democrats are coming on strong with policies that seek to dismantle tech, they have an ambitious 2022 agenda in a variety of areas. Republicans, meanwhile, are open and eager to make reforms within the tech space, their more reserved approach may delay larger bills from sliding through congress. 

The year ahead has an ambitious tech agenda, with the potential for many pieces of groundbreaking and industry-changing regulation coming to fruition. It is because of this that developer engagement is more important now than ever. If you or your team would like to reach out to our policy staff to discuss how the pending pieces of tech legislation and administrative actions impact your business, we’d love to hear from you!

Cheers to a prosperous and tech-friendly 2022! 

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By Sarah Richard

Developers Alliance Policy Counsel & Head of US Policy

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