US lawmakers question Tim Cook on Apple’s plans for blockchain tech, App Store rules

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the United States has reached out to Apple CEO Tim Cook seeking details on how App Store guidelines impact “Apple’s iOS App Store and how these policies are impacting American leadership in emerging technologies including blockchains, nonfungible tokens (NFTs), and other distributed ledger technologies.”

The letter comes as Apple has faced criticism from the likes of Jack Dorsey, Coinbase, and others over its App Store rules.

The letter, which was sent last week and is addressed to Cook, is from Gus Bilirakis (R-FL.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL.), the chairman and ranking member of the Innovation, Data, and Commerce Subcommittee.

Bilirakis and Schakowsky specifically point to an example from December of last year, where Coinbase said that Apple had blocked the company from offering NFTs without using Apple’s in-app purchase system:

In particular, it appears that Apple has used its App Store guidelines to increase its own profits and reduce the utility of apps in blockchains, NFTs, and other blockchain-related technology. For example, in December 2022 Coinbase accused Apple of forcing it to remove NFT transfers from its Wallet app on iOS. Coinbase claimed Apple was citing its App Store.

The lawmakers are calling on Cook to respond to their questioning to help Congress “fully understand” how the App Store impacts “innovation and and American technology.”

It is essential that Congress fully understand the App Store Guidelines and the extent these guidelines limit innovation and American technology leadership. Apple’s support of innovative new technologies such as blockchains, NFTs, and other distributed ledger technologies could solidify American leadership of these technologies.

The full letter includes detailed questions on things like how App Review handles the review process for different applications, whether Apple “plans to build apps using blockchain or related technologies,” and more.

In the past, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he owns cryptocurrency as part of his investment portfolio. He also said that Apple is “looking at” crypto, but has no immediate plans to make any announcements in the area.

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