Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded apps for screen time and parental controls over the past year, according to an analysis by the New York Times and Sensor Tower, an app data company. Apple has also suppressed a number of lesser-known apps.
In some cases, Apple forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children's devices or block children's access to certain adult apps and content. In other cases, the apps were simply retrieved from the App Store .
The report cites several developers whose apps have been removed, including one stating that the removal came "out of the blue" without warning. "Apple is facing several complaints related to these steps: a pair of developers filed a case with the European Union Competition Bureau and Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab filed an antitrust complaint in that country.
The New York Times shared a brief statement by an Apple spokeswoman that Apple treats "all apps the same", including those that compete with Apple's own features such as Screen Time. The spokeswoman said the affected apps "could receive too much information from users' devices".
After reading the article MacRumor's the reader sent Zachary Robinson an e-mail to Tim Cook to express his concern about the situation. Today, he received a comprehensive response from Phil Schiller, stating that Apple's removal of these apps was due to them. Using Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology to monitor all operations on the user's phone.
Schiller points out that MDM technology is intended for enterprise users to install on corporate devices so they can easily access and control those devices for administrative purposes. However, alternative use of MDM technology by third-party developers to monitor screen time or parental controls raises significant privacy and security concerns, and Apple has addressed this issue.
The complete Schiller email, which appears authentic based on our review of the headers contained:
Thank you for being an Apple fan and your email address.
I would like to assure you that the App Store has acted with the utmost responsibility in this matter and has helped to protect our children from technologies that could violate their privacy and security. After reading some facts, I hope you agree.
Unfortunately, the New York Times article you refer to did not share our full statement or the risks to children if Apple had not acted on their behalf. Apple has long supported the provision of apps in the App Store that work like our ScreenTime feature to help parents access their kids' technology, and we'll continue to promote the development of these apps. There are many great apps for parents in the App Store such as "Moment ̵1; Balance Screen Time" by Moment Health and "Verizon Smart Family" by Verizon Wireless.
However, in the past year, we realized that some parental management apps used a technology called Mobile Device Management or "MDM" and installed an MDM profile as a way to restrict and control the use of these devices. MDM is a technology that gives a party access to and control many devices. It should be used by a company on its own mobile devices as a management tool, whereby this company has a right to all data and use of the system devices. MDM technology is not designed to allow and control a developer's access to consumers' data and devices, but the apps we removed from the store did just that. Nobody but you should have unrestricted access to manage your child's device, to know the location, to track usage of the app, to control e-mail accounts, to surf the internet, to use the camera, network access and even enable remote deletion of their devices. Security studies have also shown that there is a risk that MDM profiles will be used as a technology for hacker attacks by assisting in the installation of malicious apps on user devices.
When the team appstore investigated the use of MDM technology by some developers of apps for managing children's equipment and figured out what risk they pose for the privacy and security of users, we demanded These developers stop using MDM technology in their apps. Protecting the privacy and security of users is paramount in the Apple ecosystem. We have important guidelines App Store to not allow apps that could compromise consumer privacy and security. We will continue to offer features such as ScreenTime, which help parents facilitate their children's access to technology. We will work with developers to provide many great apps for this purpose using secure technologies in the App Store and privately for us and our children.
Apple's commitment to privacy and security is well known. Not surprisingly, the company has taken steps to address concerns about monitoring the use of devices by these apps. However, for some users who prefer the features of these apps, such as cross-platform compatibility with Android devices in their homes, and more robust app control, Apple's Screen Time feature is a step backwards.