Washington DC Technology Industry Group Applied Society Boldly calls itself “the leading industry voice of the app economy” and says it represents more than 5,000 app makers and connected device companies in 27 countries around the world. What the App Association’s website doesn’t say is that more than half of its estimated $9 million in sponsorship revenue in 2020 came from one company —apple.
That is according to A recent Bloomberg article cited sources detailing the group’s deep financial ties to Apple. Those funds, in turn, have shaped the group’s influential policy priorities from the shadows, according to Bloomberg. Technology transparency groups that spoke with Gizmodo claimed that the Association for Apps, or ACT for short,’s relationship with Apple illustrates a broader trend of Big Tech infiltrating trade bloc politics, with one group classifying ACT as an “astroturf lobby.”
In response to Gizmodo’s request for comment, ACT clarified that Apple is a sponsor, not a member of the group, but went on to confirm that the smartphone maker still contributes more than 50% of ACT’s sponsorship revenue in 2020. Other key sponsors listed on the ACT website Including Verizon, Intel, AT&T and Verisign. This 50% figure leaves a lot of room for interpretation. While ACT did not provide a specific amount of Apple’s donation, sources who spoke with Bloomberg said the overall percentage came from Apple’s wallets well over 50 percent.
In interviews with Bloomberg, ACT executives vehemently rejected allegations that they were essentially a cover for Apple’s lobbying efforts. Executives said they would not receive direct guidance on policy positions from Apple, but would take into account the views of its top funders. Instead, the ACT suggested that their policy prescription may happen to overlap with Apple’s interests on certain issues.
Earlier this month, the ACT released Top Legislative Priorities for the remainder of this congressional term. These priority areas include “Broadband,” “Telehealth and Digital Health Coverage,” “Cryptocurrency,” “Privacy,” “Tax Policy,” “Workforce Development and Education,” and “Intellectual Property.” Given Apple’s sheer size and scale, nearly all of these issues could affect its business.
ACT rejects claims its a ‘Big Tech front group’
Tech transparency groups speaking with Gizmodo don’t buy ACT’s claims of separation and doubled down on skepticism of its relationship with Apple.
“Just like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, Apple has been caught red-handed concealing their connection to yet another astroturf lobbying group,” Tech Oversight Project Executive Director Sacha Haworth told Gizmodo. “Apple tries to curate its public profile, but they play just as dirty as their Big Tech co-conspirators.”
ACT has sided with Apple on numerous major policy prescriptions in recent years but possibly the most significant of those came on the heels of the Supreme Court’s 2019 Award exist Apple v. Pepper. In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with Apple and developers who claimed that Apple had a monopoly on the iPhone app market. In short, the identified developers claim that the consumers of the app marketplace are “direct buyers,” meaning they have the right to sue Apple for higher prices or other disputes covered by antitrust law.
ACT President Morgan Reed emphasized speak out It opposed the ruling and said the ACT was “very disappointed” with the outcome. “This decision and its classification of developers as ‘suppliers’ or ‘manufacturers’ of the platform sets a disturbing precedent,” Reed wrote at the time.
“The ACT, like the Developers Coalition and the Internet Commerce Council, is just the latest group to come to light as a large tech-forward group,” Christa Brown, senior policy analyst at the Project for Economic Freedom, told Gizmodo. “It has taken a number of actions against its claims. represents the developer’s position, but is fully aligned with Apple’s agenda.”
According to Brown, the ACT has taken a number of “adverse positions” over the years.[s] The developers it claims to represent” while inevitably aligning with Apple’s agenda.
In a statement sent to Gizmodo ACT’s senior director of global communications, Karen Groppe said the group is pushing for privacy, broadband and others designed to help its members “navigate the early stages of the pandemic.”
“As for the agenda, our members drive the group’s policy and legislative agenda,” Gropp said. “This has been happening since 1998.”
Groppe reiterates ACT’s comments on Apple-sponsored donations 2020, and said the group will not comment on recent financials until the IRS releases its tax returns.
Apple’s feud with developers
Apple plays an important and increasingly complex role in the mobile app economy. The App Store and Google’s Play Store are two of the most important ways that app makers deliver their services to users. In exchange for this service, Apple charges a fee, or what some call a “Tax” of in between 15-30% depending on the application. The fee has come under scrutiny from app developers like Epic, Spotify, and others who claim it’s unfair.Korean regulator even introduce legislation Preventing big platform holders like Apple and Google from forcing developers to use their own in-app purchase system is something that many developers around the world deride.Apple has many times defend Its App Store policy in Congress and elsewhere to maintain platform security and quality control.
Antitrust advocates like Bruce Schneier, a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, reject Apple’s arguments.
“Security is a giant red herring,” Schneier said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s going to scare a lot of people. The goal is to protect the monopoly.”
In any case, the fact that Apple regularly feuds with developers over its policies complicates ACT, the self-proclaimed “leading industry voice” of the mobile economy, which has gained invaluable support from one of the industry’s main gatekeepers. due impact.
Apple did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Big Tech’s increasingly creative ways to lobby
Apple isn’t the only tech giant lurking in the shadow of lobbying.
The Technical Oversight Project in its “Big Tech Wiki,” appealed to groups such as the Internet Commerce Council and the Coalition for Download Fairness. One such group, The American Fringe Project, which heralds itself as a grassroots, bipartisan nonprofit, was recently revealed to have Received $4 million in donations Meta allegedly in exchange for strongly opposed antitrust reforms, according to Report From the Technology Transparency Project. The report said the Mets could fund American Edge and even serve as its founder.
Big tech’s creative — or sneaky, depending on your point of view — approach to lobbying comes amid an absolute spree of political spending.Since 2021, Bloomberg estimate Apple, Amazon, Google, and Meta spent a combined $95 million on lobbying, a significant portion of which was reportedly used to shred forthcoming antitrust legislation into invisible pulp.Apple reportedly spent Company hits record high Lobbying expenses for the second quarter of 2022 are $2.5 million. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s worth noting that the figure is nearly 100% higher than the same period last year.
Haworth, who supports the Technology Oversight Project to strengthen antitrust legislation, told Gizmodo that Apple’s previously unknown ties to the ACT are more reason to pressure lawmakers to move forward Vote on legislation that risks being buried by other Democratic priorities.
“Unless we control these tech monopolies, they will continue to undercut competition and bleed small businesses and startups,” Haworth said.
AELP’s Brown similarly stated, Apple’s ACT ties shed light on broader issues plaguing the industry and urges lawmakers to focus on Big Tech allegedly financial intervention.
“This is a clear example of the way big tech money is guiding much of the narrative in Washington,” Brown said. “This is a serious issue, and lawmakers and enforcers are wise to prioritize Big Tech as they consider efforts to rein in their power.”