Last year, Apple href = “https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/05/apple-puts-third-party-screen-time-apps-on-notice/”> removed a number of time’s screen and parental control. apps from its App Store, shortly after the company had released its own solution for first-party screen time with the launch of iOS 12. At today’s antitrust hearing, the Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about the move, given the anti-competitive implications.
Shortly after Apple debuted its own Screen Time feature set, several third-party app makers suddenly saw their screen time solutions come under an added review of the App Store. Many apps have also seen their app updates rejected or their apps removed completely. Affected developers used a range of methods to track screen time, as there was no official means to do so. This included the use of background location, VPNs, and MDM-based solutions, and sometimes a combination of methods.
Apple defended its decision at the time and said the removal had put the privacy and security of users at risk, as they required access to the location of a device, use of the app , email accounts, camera permissions, and more.
But lawmakers have questioned Apple’s decision to appear to be suddenly concerned about the user’s privacy threats coming from these apps ̵1; many of which had been on the market for years.
The Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-D) began the interrogation line by reading an email from a mother who wrote to Apple about her disappointment over the removal of apps, saying Apple’s move was “slow consumer access to much-needed services to keep children safe and protect their mental health and well-being. “She wondered why Apple removed apps from competitors shortly after releasing the solution. its own screen time.
Cook responded as much as Apple did last year, saying the company was concerned about “privacy and child safety,” and that the technology the apps used was problematic.
“The technology that was being used at the time was called MDM, and it had the ability to take over the child’s screen, and a third person could see it,” Cook said. “So we were worried about their safety.”
That’s perhaps not the most accurate description of how MDM works, as it describes MDM as some remote control tool. In reality, MDM technology has legitimate uses in the mobile ecosystem and is still used to this day. However, it was designed for enterprise use – such as managing a fleet of employee devices, for example, not consumer phones. MDM tools can access the location of a device, control app usage, email, and set various permissions, among other things that a corporate entity may want to do as part of its efforts to secure an employee device.
Somehow, that’s why it made sense for parents who wanted to control and lock their children’s iPhones in the same way. Although not a consumer technology, the app developers saw a hole in the market and found a way to fill it using the tools at their disposal. That’s how the market works.
Apple’s argument, but not bad. The way MDMs are used has been a privacy risk. But instead of banning the apps altogether, it had to offer them an alternative. That is, instead of launching its competition, it should also have built a development API for its iOS Screen Time screen along with the product facing the consumer.
Such an API could allow developers to build apps that could improve Apple’s screen time features and parental controls. Apple could have given the apps a deadline to make the transition instead of ending their businesses. This does not hurt developers or their end users, and would address the privacy concerns associated with third-party apps.
“The timing of the removal seems to be a very coincidence,” McBath remarked. “If Apple wasn’t trying to hurt competitors to help its own app, why would Phil Schiller, who runs the App Store, promote the Screen Time app to customers who complained about the app’s removal? rival parental control? ”I asked.
Cook responded that today there are more than 30 app screen times in the App Store and so there is “vibrant competition for parental controls out there.”
But McBath noted that some banned apps were left behind in the App Store six months later, with no significant changes to privacy. (Apple regulated new rules for MDM apps in June 2019.)
“Six months is really an eternity for small businesses to close. Even worse, if a bigger competitor is actually taking customers,” she said.
Tim Cook was not given a chance to answer this line of question further as McBath continued to question Apple’s refusal to allow Random House a way to sell e-books in its own app outside Apple iBooks
Cook revealed this question and said “there are many reasons why the app may not pass right away from the App store,” noting that it may have been a technical problem.