Phil Schiller Explains Why Apple Removed Third-Party Screen Time Apps from App Store

iOS 12 Screen Time Notifications

The New York Times posted a detailed report highlighting how Apple has been removing or restricting apps that provided functionality similar to Screen Time on the App Store. The report led to Zachary Robinson sending an email to Tim Cook to express his concern over the move. That email has now received a detailed reply from Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple.

Phil starts the email by saying that the App Store team has “acted extremely responsibly in this matter.” He says that the New York Times articles did not share the complete statement from Apple and why the company took down certain apps or asked for the removal of some features to protect the privacy of children.

Many of the Screen Time management apps were using Mobile Device Management profile to restrict device features and have greater control over it as well.

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. No one, except you, should have unrestricted access to manage your child’s device, know their location, track their app use, control their mail accounts, web surfing, camera use, network access, and even remotely erase their devices. Further, security research has shown that there is risk that MDM profiles could be used as a technology for hacker attacks by assisting them in installing apps for malicious purposes on users’ devices.

After an investigation by the App Store team revealed the risk that the use of MDM by developers for Screen Time apps posed to the privacy and security of children, Apple immediately asked developers to stop using MDM.

The email from Schiller is definitely an eye-opener and highlights that the original report from the New York Times was inaccurate and did not paint a clear picture of the situation.

Apple has always put privacy and security of its users ahead of anything else so Screen Time developers should not be surprised by the company coming down heavily on their apps.

Read the full email from Phil Schiller from below:

Thank you for being a fan of Apple and for your email.

I would like to assure you that the App Store team has acted extremely responsibly in this matter, helping to protect our children from technologies that could be used to violate their privacy and security. After you learn of some of the facts I hope that you agree.

Unfortunately the New York Times article you reference did not share our complete statement, nor explain the risks to children had Apple not acted on their behalf. Apple has long supported providing apps on the App Store, that work like our ScreenTime feature, to help parents manage their children’s access to technology and we will continue to encourage development of these apps. 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.

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 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. No one, except you, should have unrestricted access to manage your child’s device, know their location, track their app use, control their mail accounts, web surfing, camera use, network access, and even remotely erase their devices. Further, security research has shown that there is risk that MDM profiles could be used as a technology for hacker attacks by assisting them in installing apps for malicious purposes on users’ devices.

When the App Store team investigated the use of MDM technology by some developers of apps for managing kids devices and learned the risk they create to user privacy and security, we asked these developers to stop using MDM technology in their apps. Protecting user privacy and security is paramount in the Apple ecosystem and we have important App Store guidelines to not allow apps that could pose a threat to consumers privacy and security. We will continue to provide features, like ScreenTime, designed to help parents manage their children’s access to technology and we will work with developers to offer many great apps on the App Store for these uses, using technologies that are safe and private for us and our children.

Thank you,

Phil

[Via MacRumors]