Apple has responded to accusations that it deleted several parental control applications from the iOS App Store because they compete with Screen Time. It claims that it did so, not due to competition, but because they breached privacy and security rules.
"Parents shouldn’t have to trade their fears of their children’s device usage for risks to privacy and security, and the App Store should not be a platform to force this choice. No one, except you, should have unrestricted access to manage your child’s device," it said in a statement posted on the Apple website.
The allegations came via a New York Times article published on Saturday 27 April. It claimed that Apple removed 11 of 17 of the top parental control/screen time apps over the last year, plus many other lesser-known apps.
It said that Apple also forced some developers to remove features that allowed parents to control their child's phone from their own.
"They yanked us out of the blue with no warning," said the chief executive of OurPact, Amir Moussavian, to the NYT.
"They are systematically killing the industry."
However, Apple's response is that it gave all developers 30 days to submit a new version of the app, one that did not violate MDM technology guidelines.
"Over the last year, we became aware that several [...] 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," said Apple.
MDM is a technology restricted to enterprise use, as it has some benefits to corporations for the control of proprietary data and hardware. It is not meant for consumer applications and such use is now restricted - hence the removal notices to several parental control apps that incorporated MDM tech.
"Several developers released updates to bring their apps in line with these policies. Those that didn’t were removed from the App Store.," added Apple.
"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."