A large group of developers who make parental control apps have tied together to require Apple to come up with a technical solution that allows them to continue working on the iPhone. They have gone so far to create a website and suggest a specification for an API that would give their apps sufficient access to track and limit the use of apps.
The movement is necessary because Apple had recently started blocking many of these apps because they exploited the Mobile Device Management (MDM) features on the iPhone. Apple has introduced a policy that these features should only be used by companies.
There were two ways to interpret this feature. The first is that it was part of a major review of MDM usage, according to what Apple saw as Facebook's abuse of feature earlier this year. The other way in which these app makers claim is that it is simply an anti-competitive way to protect Apple's own Screen Time and parental controls features. "When Apple released its own time management tool, it also started removing established brands from the store or blocking updates to their apps," they write on their website.
As Jack Nicas at New York Times notes, this movement was spurred on part by encouragement from a former Apple Executive, Tony Fadell. In a Twitter thread earlier this year Fadell claimed that Apple should create a complete API so that companies could create fully-featured parental track apps that could potentially work across various software platforms.
] Times has also reportedly sent a message from Fadell to the developers who say "I'll push it out to the world – just make sure it's done BEFORE WWDC." "The timing is significant. It can put pressure on Apple to respond to an event that is typically a celebration of its software capability – or at least make sure Apple's anti-competitive practices concern people's minds during the event.
Such concerns will still be on everyone's mind. Yesterday, Apple announced a site that defends its App Store practices, responding to a major antitrust trial and a formal EU investigation, both underway.
The concern over Apple, which draws third-party parenting apps, was big enough that Apple felt compelled to respond with a long letter defending its decision, claiming it took apps Because they allowed them to use MDM outside a business context, it was dangerous:
Apple has always supported third-party apps on the App Store that help parents with Contrary to what the New York Times reported on the weekend, it's not about competition. It's a matter of security.
In this app category and in each category, we are committed to providing a competitive and innovative app ecosystem.
When we call for an API, ask the group of developers Apple to do the right technical work to back up its commitment to a "competitive, innovative appo system." The developers require "at least one of the following":
1. Access to usage data
2. Ability to block app access
3. Ability to Filter Web Traffic
It is likely to be a difficult query. Suggesting a spec for an API is one thing that actually convinces Apple that it is the right method and will protect users' privacy, is quite another – to say nothing to convince Apple to put the technical effort into creating the.
We've reached Apple for comment and will tell you if we'll be back.