Tim Cook Questioned on Apple's 2019 Ban on Parental Control Apps Using Mobile Device Management

Apple in early 2019 removed or restricted many popular screen time and parental control apps on the App Store due to their use of Mobile Device Management, or MDM, which the company said put user security and privacy at risk.

apple screen time screen icons
During today's antitrust hearing with the U.S. House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, Cook was questioned about Apple's decision to remove the parental control apps, which came after the release of Apple's own Screen Time feature.

Cook said what Apple has said multiple times before, that the apps that used Mobile Device Management to allow parents to limit kids access to their devices placed data at risk. "We were worried about the safety of kids," Cook said.

Cook's statement was similar to what Apple said when the apps were removed: "These apps were using an enterprise technology that provided them access to kids' highly sensitive personal data. We do not think it is O.K. for any apps to help data companies track or optimize advertising of kids."

The Congresswoman questioning Cook asked about a specific app from the Saudi Arabian government that also used MDM, but Cook said he was not familiar with the app and that he would have to provide more data at a later date. When questioned about whether Apple applies different rules to different app developers, Cook once again said that rules are applied to all developers equally.

Cook was asked about the timing of the removal of the parental control apps, given that Screen Time had launched not too long before, a question that Cook largely skirted. He was asked why Phil Schiller had referred customers complaining about the removal of parental control apps to Screen Time, but Cook referenced the more than 30 parental control apps in the ‌App Store‌ and said there is "vibrant competition" in the parental control space in the ‌App Store‌.

When pressed on whether Apple has the power to exclude apps from the ‌App Store‌ or remove competing apps, Cook returned to what he said during his opening statement, that there's a "wide gate" for the ‌App Store‌, referring to the fact that there are more than 1.7 million apps available. "It's an economic miracle," said Cook. "We want to get every app we can on the ‌App Store‌."

In tandem with the questioning on parental control apps, Cook was asked why, in 2010, Apple used the ‌App Store‌ to push publisher Random House into participating in the iBookstore, which Random House had declined to do. In a cited document, Apple iTunes chief Eddy Cue at the time emailed Steve Jobs that he "prevented an app from Random House from going live in the ‌App Store‌," because Apple was aiming to get Random House to agree to an overall deal. Cook in response said there are "many reasons" an app might not make it through the approval process. "It might not work properly," he said.

appstoredocumentation

One of the documents shared by the subcommittee

Apple's 2019 decision to limit parental control apps led the developers of those apps to call for a public API that would allow them to access the same features that are available in Screen Time after the MDM options were restricted, which Apple declined to provide.

Mobile Device Management, which the apps used, is a feature that is specifically designed for enterprise users to manage company-owned devices. Apple's position is that the use of MDM by consumer-focused apps has privacy and security concerns that have been referenced in App Store guidelines since 2017.

Rather than providing an API, Apple ultimately decided to allow parental control app developers to use Mobile Device Management for their apps, with stricter privacy controls that prevent them from selling, using, or disclosing data to third parties. Apps must also submit an MDM capability request that evaluates how an app will use MDM to prevent abuse and to ensure no data is shared. MDM requests are re-evaluated each year.

Top Rated Comments

sdf Avatar
17 weeks ago
I feel that people who want MDM in the hands of third parties don't really understand what MDM can do.

Here's a list:
https://support.apple.com/en-ca/guide/mdm/mdm0f7dd3d8/1/web/1

That's just modes. There are also commands that can be issued to MDM devices (including wipe device).
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Baymowe335 Avatar
17 weeks ago
Tim Cook destroyed them while Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Pichai fumbled far more.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bobmans Avatar
17 weeks ago


I live in Saudi Arabia, and Absher doesn’t use MDM, which is why his response may technically be true. Absher uses other mechanisms.

Didn't know that it doesn't use MDM but doesn't really matter.
She asked "Another app that used the same tool is called Absher, do you recall what Apple's position was regarding that application" and Tim's response was that he "is not familiar with that app". There's no way in hell that Tim Cook "is not familiar with that app".
The "I'm not familiar with that app but will look into it" is the same response he always gives when asked about Absher.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Juan007 Avatar
17 weeks ago


He said the exact same thing last year when asked about Absher, weird how he still hasn't heard of the app after he said he'd look into it last year ?

He’s the CEO of Apple and you expect him to know some fine details about an app from a third world country that probably generates a rounding error in revenue? Maybe he doesn’t remember the last time he blew his nose either.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bobmans Avatar
17 weeks ago


The Congresswoman questioning Cook asked about a specific app from the Saudi Arabian government that also used MDM, but Cook said he was not familiar with the app and that he would have to provide more data at a later date.

He said the exact same thing last year when asked about Absher, weird how he still hasn't heard of the app after he said he'd look into it last year ?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kc9hzn Avatar
17 weeks ago


You may be unaware, but MDM is back in the hands of same 3rd party devs who had their apps removed. Apple reversed their decision back in June. The devs wanted Apple to release a public API for Screen Time. Apple said, "how 'bout we just let you go back to using MDM?"

That "what about the kids" really didn't amount to much.

Got a link to back that up? The licensing for MDM says specifically that it’s for distributing software within a corporation. The fact that they were enrolling other people’s devices in a service designed for corporate owned devices and distributing device profiles is really shady. That doesn’t really sound like something Apple would encourage them to do.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

m1 chip macbook air pro

Kuo: Redesigned MacBooks With Apple Silicon to Launch in Second Half of 2021

Tuesday November 24, 2020 7:53 pm PST by
Apple plans to release additional MacBook models with Apple Silicon in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, as part of the company's two-year transition away from Intel processors across its Mac lineup. In a research note today, obtained by MacRumors, Kuo said that these MacBook models will feature a new design. Kuo did not specify which models these will be, but he...
2020 apple shopping event

Apple Offering Up to $150 Gift Card With Select Products on Black Friday Through Cyber Monday

Monday November 23, 2020 2:53 am PST by
Apple has announced its annual four-day shopping event, offering customers up to a $150 Apple Store gift card with the purchase of select products between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. The gift card values in the United States are as follows: $150 for 16-inch MacBook Pro $150 for 21.5-inch iMac $50 for 13-inch MacBook Pro $50 for MacBook Air $50 for iPhone SE,...
app store christmas icon

Apple Shutting Down App Store Connect From December 23 to December 27

Monday November 23, 2020 10:14 am PST by
Apple shuts down App Store Connect for a week around the holidays each year in an effort to give App Store staff time off from work. This year, App Store Connect will be unavailable from December 23 to December 27. With App Store Connect unavailable, Apple will not accept new apps or app updates, so all pricing changes and new app submissions need to be locked in before those dates for...
Target November Deals 1

Black Friday Spotlight: Target Begins Week-Long Sale With Deals on iPhone 12, Powerbeats Pro, and More

Monday November 23, 2020 8:07 am PST by
We've been tracking early Black Friday deals in our dedicated Black Friday Roundup, and in an effort to prepare our readers for the big shopping event we're highlighting sales store-by-store in the lead-up to November 27. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Target. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running....
mac mini macbook pro macbook air

Apple M1 Hands-On Comparison: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac Mini

Monday November 23, 2020 3:40 pm PST by
Apple's M1 Macs are out in the wild now, but ahead of the holidays, you might still be trying to figure out which one to pick up, either for yourself or as a gift for someone else. We've got all three of the new Macs available, so we thought we'd give MacRumors readers a hands-on overview of each machine in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...
max tech xcode benchmark m1 macbook

Video Demos Performance Differences Between 8GB and 16GB Apple M1 MacBook Pro

Monday November 23, 2020 2:54 pm PST by
All of the M1 Mac models use the same M1 chip, so the upgrade options are limited to SSD storage space and RAM. We haven't seen many comparisons that demonstrate the difference between a machine with 8GB RAM and the upgraded 16GB RAM option, but Max Tech today shared a video highlighting the performance between an 8GB MacBook Pro and a 16GB MacBook Pro. The video includes a series of...
new mac mini logicpro screen

M1 Macs Able to Run Up to Six External Displays Using DisplayLink

Tuesday November 24, 2020 6:53 am PST by
It is possible to run up to six external displays from the M1 Mac mini, and five external displays from the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, with the aid of DisplayPort adapters, according to YouTuber Ruslan Tulupov. This far exceeds Apple's specified limits on external displays with the M1 Macs. Apple's host of new M1 Macs are not capable of supporting as many external displays as their...
iPads black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best iPad Deals

Tuesday November 24, 2020 8:51 am PST by
Although we're still a few days away from the official launch of Black Friday, we've known for a few weeks that many retailers would be kicking off discounts ahead of November 27. Because of this trend, today we're tracking discounts across Apple's lineup of iPads, including the 10.2-inch iPad and 2020 iPad Pro. More sales are likely to appear as the week progresses, and when they do we'll update ...
13 16 inch macbook pro air trio

Reliable Leaker Suggests Redesigned MacBooks in 2021 Will Include Both Apple Silicon and Intel Models

Wednesday November 25, 2020 9:15 am PST by
Reliable leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today suggested on Twitter that redesigned MacBooks coming in the second half of 2021 will include models with both Apple Silicon chips and Intel processors. The brief Tweet came in response to a MacRumors article from earlier today, which outlined a report from Ming-Chi Kuo claiming that Apple plans to release redesigned MacBook models with Apple ...
ipad pro 2020 display

Black Friday Week Kicks Off With Up to $150 Savings on 2020 iPad Pro

Sunday November 22, 2020 2:37 pm PST by
As we head into Black Friday week, we're seeing some of the best deals of the season so far, with Amazon and Best Buy today discounting the latest iPad Pro models by up to $150 at the lowest prices we've ever tracked on these models. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep ...