Published: Tue, April 30, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Why Apple quietly deleted parental control apps from the App Store

Why Apple quietly deleted parental control apps from the App Store

Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen time and parental control apps over the previous year, according to the New York Times and app data firm Sensor Tower.

Businesses will often use MDM software to manage and control devices, according to CNET.

"We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users' privacy and security at risk. 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 said.

"Over the past year, we became aware that several of these parental control apps were using a highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM".

"This included very sensitive information such as user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions and browsing history", Apple said. However, there are now concerns that Apple is limiting, or outright pulling, apps that compete with its Screen Time.

Apple reportedly ordered developers to remove key features from their Screen Time-like apps or take them down entirely from the App Store.

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Apple is said to have justified its actions by saying that the apps violated policies such as using public APIs in an unapproved manner. "Apple has also clamped down on a number of lesser-known apps", The Times reported this weekend.

The company said there are many "tremendously successful" apps that offer similar functionality to Apple-provided programs, and added that it is committed to a competitive and innovative app ecosystem.

Numerous targeted apps offered more robust functionality than Apple's own Screen Time, such as the ability to schedule blocking of apps, a kill switch for blocking everything at once, support for additional browsers and apps and the ability to control kids' Android phones. That's a "clear violation of App Store policies".

The tech giant has removed or limited the features of some of the most popular third-party apps to monitor screen time, including apps that gave parents tighter control over their children's phone use, the report said.

To recap: Developers of popular apps with features created to limit a user's screen time have complained that Apple forced them to remove these features, suspiciously around the time that Apple introduced the Screen Time feature in iOS 12. However, the company claims it's "a matter of security".

Most of the apps highlighted by the Times report enabled parents to limit the amount of the time they and their children spent on their iPhones and Android devices, and two developers have filed a complaint with the European Union's competition office. For numerous developers, Apple's platform provided the majority of its revenue.

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