A large group of developers who create parental control apps have united to demand that Apple devises a technical solution that will allow them to continue working on the iPhone. They have gone so far create a website and propose a specification for an API that would give their apps sufficient access to track and limit the use of apps.
The move is needed because Apple recently blocked many of these apps because they were using the mobile device management (MDM) features on the iPhone. Apple has established a policy that these functions may only be used by companies.
There were two ways to interpret that move. The first is that it was part of a larger assessment of the use of MDM following what Apple saw earlier this year as Facebook's abuse of the feature. The second way, as these app makers claim, is that it is simply an anti-competitive way to protect Apple & # 39; s own screen time and parental controls. "When Apple released its own screen time management tool, it also began to remove well-known brands from the store or block updates to their apps," they write on their website.
1 / This article is, if true, very disturbing. When it comes to the personal digital consumption of our children, users want and deserve more options and access to various apps / controls to meet our often specific & niche management needs, not less. https://t.co/UUvJJp1nzF
– Tony Fadell (@tfadell) April 28, 2019
As Jack Nicas on the New York Times notes, this movement was partly encouraged by the encouragement of a former Apple CEO, Tony Fadell. In a Twitter thread earlier this year, Fadell argued that Apple should create a fully-featured API so that companies could create full-fledged track apps for parents that might work on different software platforms.
The Times has reportedly also seen a message from Fadell to the developers that reads: "I will send it out to the world – make sure it is ready FOR WWDC." "The timing is significant. It can put pressure on Apple to respond to an event that typically demonstrates the ability of the software – or at least cause concerns about anti-competitive practices at Apple during the event to people is.
Anyway, such worries will put pressure on everyone's mind. Yesterday Apple published a page that defended the App Store practices. The company responded to an antitrust case with huge implications and a formal EU investigation, both of which are currently ongoing.
Concerns about Apple that were recording third-party parental control apps were great enough that Apple felt compelled to respond with a long letter in which it defended its decision. The company argued that it drew the apps because it was dangerous to use MDM outside of a business context:
Apple has always supported third-party apps in the App Store that allow parents to manage their children's devices. Unlike what the New York Times reported on the weekend, this is not a competition issue. It is a matter of security.
In this app category and in each category, we strive to offer a competitive, innovative app ecosystem.
By calling an API, the developers group asks Apple to do real technical work in support of its commitment to a "competitive, innovative app ecosystem." The developers call for "at least one of the following":
1. Access to app usage data
2. Ability to block app access
3. Ability to filter web traffic
It is probably a difficult question. Proposing a specification for an API is one thing, actually convincing Apple that it is the right methodology and protecting user privacy is something completely different – not to mention convincing Apple about the technical effort to deliver to create it.
We have approached Apple for comments and will let you know if we will hear again.