Apple has been removing third-party Screen Time apps from the App Store.
It is speculated that Apple is removing these apps because it introduced its own Screen Time monitoring app with iOS 12.
Third-party Screen Time monitoring apps rely on VPNs and Mobile Device Management (MDM)-based solutions. Apple says this causes a breach of consumer privacy and security.
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An April 27 report by the New York Times highlighted how Apple has been arbitrarily removing third-party Screen Time Monitoring apps from the App Store to fight competition against its own Screen Time app, which it introduced to help users keep a check on their smartphone usage on devices with iOS 12. Preceding the NYT report which cites many developers of such apps calling out Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour, another report had highlighted that Apple has started to remove third-party screen time apps from the App Store citing guidelines that have been in place for years.
“Over the past year, Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps, according to an analysis by The New York Times and Sensor Tower, an app-data firm. Apple has also clamped down on a number of lesser-known apps. In some cases, Apple 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. In other cases, it simply pulled the apps from its App Store,” The NYT report notes.
Some app developers are even taking Apple to task by filing complaints with the anti-competitive and antitrust complaints against the company.
Apple’s initial response to the NYT report quoted a spokeswoman saying that these apps “could gain too much information from users' devices". However, it is important to note that these apps have existed on Apple’s iOS ecosystem for quite a while.
After the NYT article was reported on by MacRumours, a reader of the publication wrote to Tim Cook “expressing concern on the situation”. To this, the reader received a detailed response from Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple. In his response, Schiller noted that third-party Screen Time apps make use of Mobile Device Management technology, which gives developers of these apps access to all smartphone activity of a user.
“There are many great apps for parents on the App Store, like “Moment - Balance Screen Time” by Moment Health and “Verizon Smart Family” by Verizon Wireless,” he noted.
“However, over the last year we became aware that some parental management apps were using a technology called Mobile Device Management or “MDM” and installing an MDM Profile as a method to limit and control the use of these devices. MDM is a technology that gives one party access to and control over many devices, it was meant to be used by a company on it’s own mobile devices as a management tool, where that company has a right to all of the data and use of the devices. The MDM technology is not intended to enable a developer to have access to and control over consumers’ data and devices, but the apps we removed from the store did just that,” explained Schiller.
In short, Apple cited privacy and security as the reason for removal of these apps from the App Store.
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