Apple explains why it’s cracking down on third-party screen time and parental control apps

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Following the introduction of Apple’s iOS Screen Time feature, a number of app developers who created screen-tracking and parental control apps have been asked to change their products, or have been booted from the App Store completely, according to a new report in The New York Times.

The Times says that “Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps,” as well as a number of others.

The report points out that Apple’s Screen Time app has some drawbacks compared to some of the third-party alternatives, giving users fewer ways to block kids (or themselves) from accessing unwanted apps, less-granular scheduling, and that children were able to work around Apple’s web-filtering tools.

It also points out that third-party apps could be used across iOS and Android platforms, whereas Apple’s Screen Time makes it difficult for parents to oversee Android devices.

The report features interviews with developers who found their apps pulled from the store abruptly, and who claimed they faced unclear and vague instructions for changes or unresponsive support from the company. In many cases, the developers note that being booted from the App store can be devastating to their companies — Amir Moussavian the CEO of OurPact, says that 80 percent of its revenue came from the App Store.

Apple maintains that the apps violated its rules, that third-party apps could gather too much data on devices, and that the actions weren’t related to the company’s debut of its own screen-monitoring tools.

In an e-mail seen by MacRumors, Apple’s Phil Schiller pushed back on the Times’ report, saying that the publication didn’t share the company’s complete statement, and explained that some of the companies that were booted were “using a technology called Mobile Device Management or “MDM” and installing an MDM Profile as a method to limit and control use of these devices.

MDM is a technology that gives one party access to and control over many devices, it was meant to be used by a company on its own mobile devices as a management tool, where that company has a right to all of the data and use of the devices.”


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