Apple takes down apps designed to limit screen time

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Apple has been systematically removing certain apps that were pitched as tools giving parents more control over their children’s screen-time, leading to a group of upset developers whose businesses have been crippling, and even an antitrust lawsuit.  Apple is trying to push iOS device users into using only Apple’s own apps such as Screen Time. Apple reportedly ordered developers to remove key features from their Screen Time-like apps or take them down entirely from the App Store. Some of these apps had more advanced features, such as support for managing Android devices and blocking websites in browsers besides Safari.

“We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users’ privacy and security at risk. It’s important to understand why and how this happened,” the company said in a statement.

In some cases, Apple also forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children’s devices or that blocked children’s access to certain apps and adult content.

These device management tools give control and access over a device’s user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions and browsing history to a third party.

“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,” the company said.

Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple Inc., outlined that Apple’s removal of these apps is due to their use of Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology to monitor everything that happens on the user’s phone.

Schiller notes that MDM technology is intended for enterprise users to install on company-owned devices, giving them easy access to and control over those devices for management purposes. The alternative usage of MDM technology by third-party developers for screen time monitoring or parental controls raises significant privacy and security concerns, however, and Apple has moved to address those issues.

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