A New York Times report published on Saturday stated that the company has ‘removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps’ by forcing the developers to remove the features that allowed parents to control their child’s access to some apps or adult content.
Apple initially introduced its screen-time and parental-control features in 2018 alongside iOS 12, after a number of users and investors expressed their concerns about the rising number of phone-addicted children, which could lead to mental health problems and other related issues.
According to the report, the company has been using the power it holds over the Apple Store to strike back at the products of its competitors.
Apple was quick to respond to the report via a statement published in its newsroom. In it, the company defended its actions by stating that the parental control apps were removed from the Apple Store because “they put users’ privacy and security at risk’.
“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.” Apple’s statement explains “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.”
Apple goes on to say that “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.” According to the company’s research, MDM profiles can be used by hackers for access.
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 gave the app developers 30 days to fix the guideline violations and, while some of them fixed their issues, others did not and their apps took the fall and got removed from the Apple Store.
The report on Saturday also mentioned that two of these developers have filed a complaint with the European Union’s competition office. One of them states that Apple forced them to alter its app in such a way as to make it less effective than the company’s own parental controls.
Contrary to what The New York Times reported over the weekend, this isn’t a matter of competition. It’s a matter of security.
It’s not the first claim of this kind Apple has to deal with: in March, Spotify also filed a complaint to the European Union regulators which states that Apple Music uses the App Store to ‘stifle innovation, weaken competition and unfairly tax rivals’.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek followed the complaint with a post where he stated that Apple continues “to give themselves an unfair advantage at every turn“.