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Apple Shares More Details on Parental Control App Crackdown

Following an email from Phil Schiller to a MacRumors reader yesterday addressing a report from The New York Times on Apple's removal of a number of App Store apps focused on screen time monitoring and parental controls, Apple has issued a public statement sharing additional perspective on the situation.


The statement, entitled "The facts about parental control apps," is very similar in its details to the email from Schiller, highlighting how Apple "became aware" over the last year that these apps were using Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology to monitor all of the activity occurring on the user's device or devices used by their family members.

MDM technology is intended for enterprise users to manage their company-owned devices, and Apple says the use of MDM by consumer-focused apps carries privacy and security concerns that resulted in Apple addressing the situation in its App Store review guidelines in mid-2017.

Apple says that it notified developers of apps affected by its crackdown on this disallowed usage of MDM, giving them 30 days to modify their apps before pulling them from the App Store.
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.

When we found out about these guideline violations, we communicated these violations to the app developers, giving them 30 days to submit an updated app to avoid availability interruption in the App Store. Several developers released updates to bring their apps in line with these policies. Those that didn’t were removed from the App Store.
Apple also directly addressed observations in this weekend's report that the move gives the appearance of anticompetitive behavior:
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.
While Apple is firm in stating that competition did not play a role in its crackdown on these apps, the timing is certainly curious. Apple began the crackdown shortly after rolling out its Screen Time feature in iOS 12 last September, despite several of these apps having used MDM for a number of years.


Developers quoted in The New York Times and who have spoken to MacRumors have also expressed frustration with Apple's original communication on the issue. The developers detailed multiple attempts to obtain more information on exactly what changes needed to be made to their apps, but Apple's support staff reportedly either failed to respond or provided unhelpful and non-specific responses before pulling the affected apps.



Top Rated Comments

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12 weeks ago

Apple is obviously trying to avoid an investigation into their anti competitive actions. More than one group has accused apple of anti competitive behavior. Innocent until proven guilty doesn't mean no investigation should take place.


Except there are no anti-competitive actions. Just whiny developers who got caught abusing enterprise certificates looking to shift the blame to Apple. They’ve all copied the Daniel Ek (Spotify CEO) playbook of whine.
Rating: 20 Votes
12 weeks ago
If it's true that developers were abusing MDM, then it highlights a long-existing problem with the App store: the shoddy app review process. This certainly is not the first time that Apple removed existing apps after they "became aware" that some feature was being abused. Often times, Apple is the one making these features available to developers, so it's especially shocking that they can't more easily identify this abuse.

That 30% cut Apple takes from every transaction is supposedly there to support the App Store ecosystem. The review process is supposed to be screening apps for quality and conformance to rules and guidelines. Where is all that money going? It certainly isn't going into app discovery or search functionality. To this day, I can search for an app by name, but the top result is an advertisement for something completely different. That's the kind of thing you'd expect from Google, not form from a service that already collects a sizable portion of revenue from the developers on the platform.
Rating: 17 Votes
12 weeks ago

Screentime is missing a major feature: ability to request unlock remotely versus having to do it on the device directly.


You’re wrong. The kids request unlock from me all the time via remote. I grant it sometimes, and sometimes I don’t, as it is designed. Works great.
Rating: 13 Votes
12 weeks ago

It is nice apple responded but it should be under oath in court.


Can't be in court since nothing wrong was done. Nice try.
Rating: 13 Votes
12 weeks ago

Hey Phil, while you are at it, why not fix all the bugs and glitches associated with the screen time feature?


How long ago did you inform Apple about the bugs and glitches you're experiencing?
Rating: 12 Votes
12 weeks ago
Hey Phil, while you are at it, why not fix all the bugs and glitches associated with the screen time feature?
Rating: 9 Votes
12 weeks ago

Not that the App Store is perfect, but what you say isn't relevant.
MDM Apps aren't installed via the App Store and don't go through the traditional review process. They're meant to be internally developed Apps that have no use outside of a business and therefore don't need to be in a store. Apple is revoking these companies abilities to make "private" apps, as they then distributing the apps (but not via the store).


Actually, I just finished reading Apple's public statement ('https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/04/the-facts-about-parental-control-apps/') on the matter. To the contrary, apps that used MDM were indeed submitted and approved through the App Store. I reiterate that such apps shouldn't have been approved through the App Store in the first place. At the very least, I feel that it should have stopped happening when Apple acknowledged the issue back in 2017.

It just makes me question how valuable their review process is. Apple's ecosystem and walled garden are the supposed reasons they can command a 30% cut from developers. I certainly don't expect them to be perfect, but I think it's valid to raise questions when that service falters.
Rating: 7 Votes
12 weeks ago

Can't be in court since nothing wrong was done. Nice try.


Apple is obviously trying to avoid an investigation into their anti competitive actions. More than one group has accused apple of anti competitive behavior. Innocent until proven guilty doesn't mean no investigation should take place.
Rating: 7 Votes
12 weeks ago

Screentime is missing a major feature: ability to request unlock remotely versus having to do it on the device directly.

What? You can do everything remotely.
Rating: 6 Votes
12 weeks ago

Hey Phil, while you are at it, why not fix all the bugs and glitches associated with the screen time feature?


Care to share a few specific examples?

Screen Time has worked flawlessly for me, but I'm not managing child devices. Maybe that's where your supposed flaws are?
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Screentime is missing a major feature: ability to request unlock remotely versus having to do it on the device directly.


Give us a scenario. Remote Unlock would be a very scary feature that bypasses the strong measures in place.
Rating: 6 Votes

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