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Lawmakers probe Apple’s App Store policies on blockchain, NFTs

United States Representatives Gus Bilirakis and Jan Schakowsky penned a formal letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook about concerns related to the California-based company’s App Store, and the potential effect of its guidelines on emerging technologies like blockchain and nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

The letter requests information about whether the App Store’s guidelines might inadvertently hinder the progress and growth of cutting-edge innovations.

Screenshot of the letter from the lawmakers addressed to Apple’s CEO. Source: Bilirakis blog.

The lawmakers observed a pattern in Apple’s approach to its App Store guidelines, where the company seemingly capitalized on and simultaneously limited the functionality of crypto apps. They pointed out that Apple achieved this by mandating the release of “lite” versions, which both generated profits for Apple and diminished the overall utility of the applications. As evidence, they specifically mentioned the case of Axie Infinity’s App Store experience.

By dispatching the letter, the lawmakers expressed apprehensions regarding the potential negative consequences of Apple’s policies on the United States’ standing in the realm of emerging technologies. The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Innovation, Data, and Commerce Subcommittee conveyed their viewpoint, noting that while Apple has justified these limitations as a means to enhance security through a “walled garden” approach, there is widespread concern that the company might be wielding the App Store as a tool to suppress competition.

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They emphasized the utmost importance for Congress to gain a comprehensive understanding of the App Store Guidelines and to assess to what extent these guidelines may impede innovation and have an impact on American technological leadership. They added:

“Our subcommittee remains committed to promoting full transparency and ensuring that Big Tech is held accountable for monopolistic behavior,” 

They stated that they intend to create a level playing field within the industry so that American ingenuity can continue to thrive. The lawmakers previously penned a similar letter to Apple regarding App Store policies relating to TikTok and other apps originating from China.

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