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Apple releases official statement responding to parental control app rejection controversy

Apple has released an official company statement in response to the recent controversy surrounding Apple’s decision to remove apps that relied on MDM systems to provide features similar to those introduced by Apple in iOS 12 as Screen Time.

Echoing comments made in an email from Phil Schiller, the statement directly refutes the claims made by The New York Times this week: ‘Contrary to what The New York Times reported over the weekend, this isn’t a matter of competition. It’s a matter of security’.

In the statement, Apple says it began investigating abuses of MDM for non-enterprise usage in early 2017 and updated App Review guidelines in mid-2017.

Apps that provide parental controls that do not rely on MDM are allowed to continue in the App Store. However, the scope for a parental controls app that operates in the bounds of the iOS app sandbox is small and many features — like automatic, accurate, usage tracking — are simply not possible.

Apple does not address this barrier in its statement, although it is possible that the company introduces a sanctioned API for accessing such data down the road.

Apple says it is committed to fostering a competitive, innovative, marketplace for apps in the App Store including in areas where Apple competes with first-party solutions.

In this app category, and in every category, we are committed to providing a competitive, innovative app ecosystem. There are many tremendously successful apps that offer functions and services similar to Apple’s in categories like messaging, maps, email, music, web browsers, photos, note-taking apps, contact managers and payment systems, just to name a few. We are committed to offering a place for these apps to thrive as they improve the user experience for everyone.
With striking similarities to the Spotify antitrust complaint, Apple is currently facing an anticompetitive lawsuit in Russia over its choice to pull many ‘screen time’ apps from sale, with affected developers naturally annoyed that their businesses were essentially defined away overnight.
Unlike the Spotify situation, though, Apple does not have direct financial incentives to limit / lock out competition in the digital health space as Screen Time is offered as a free OS feature, rather than a paid service like Apple Music.
Apple says it notified developers who were in breach of the App Store guidelines when they were identified, and gave them 30 days to change the way their apps worked. Apps that continued not to comply were removed from the App Store.

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Avatar for Benjamin Mayo Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.