Apple responds to parental control app removal controversy

Black iPhone

Apple has been upsetting developers of parental control apps recently by asking them to restrict their offerings in various ways, or simply removing them from the App Store. Critics say that this is because the apps compete with iOS's Screen Time feature.

Apple has now responded to the criticism, denying that this is the reason for its interference with and removal of apps. The company insists its actions had nothing to do with killing off the competition, but says that several parental control apps were delisted because "they put users' privacy and security at risk".

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In a post on its website, Apple says: "Over the last year, we became aware that several of these parental control apps were using a highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM. MDM gives a third party control and access over a device and its most sensitive information including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history. We started exploring this use of MDM by non-enterprise developers back in early 2017 and updated our guidelines based on that work in mid-2017".

It goes on to say:

MDM does have legitimate uses. Businesses will sometimes install MDM on enterprise devices to keep better control over proprietary data and hardware. But it is incredibly risky -- and a clear violation of App Store policies -- for a private, consumer-focused app business to install MDM control over a customer’s device. Beyond the control that the app itself can exert over the user's device, research has shown that MDM profiles could be used by hackers to gain access for malicious purposes.

Apple is keen to squash any suggestion of being anti-competitive. It dismisses the claims made against it by saying: "Apple has always supported third-party apps on the App Store that help parents manage their kids' devices. Contrary to what The New York Times reported over the weekend, this isn't a matter of competition. It's a matter of security".

Image credit: Primakov / Shutterstock

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