As one of many updates to its App Store Review Guidelines this week, Apple has indicated that parental control app developers are again permitted to use Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology in their apps, so long as they do not sell, use, or disclose any data to third parties for any purpose.
An excerpt from the newly added Guideline 5.5:
This comes a little over a month after The New York Times reported that Apple had removed or restricted many of the most popular screen time and parental control apps on the App Store since launching its own Screen Time feature in iOS 12 last year, raising concerns over potentially anticompetitive behavior.
In response to the report, Apple said it had discovered that some parental control apps were using MDM, putting the privacy and security of children at risk.
"These apps were using an enterprise technology that provided them access to kids' highly sensitive personal data," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement issued to The New York Times on Monday. "We do not think it is O.K. for any apps to help data companies track or optimize advertising of kids."
MDM technology is intended for enterprise users to manage their company-owned devices, and Apple said the use of MDM by consumer-focused apps carried privacy and security concerns that resulted in the company addressing the situation in its App Store Review Guidelines in 2017.
Backlash quickly mounted from parental control app developers, who eventually joined together to petition Apple to "put kids first" by releasing a public API for its Screen Time for use by developers. That never happened, with Apple going down this route instead and allowing MDM usage with stricter privacy requirements.
Apple's updated guidelines also indicate that parental control apps from "approved providers" may use one of its Personal VPN APIs.
Apple has faced increasing scrutiny over its App Store and potentially anticompetitive business practices, ranging from Spotify's complaint to multiple class action lawsuits. In response, Apple said it "welcomes competition" on the App Store, which only serves to make it a "better" platform.