Apple Will Allow Parental Control Apps to Use MDM with Strict Privacy Rules

iOS 12 Screen Time Pick Ups

Apple has reversed its stance on third-party parental control apps and will now allow them to use the Mobile Device Management (MDM) to offer advanced parental control features albeit with greater scrutiny.

Apple is fine with third-party parental control apps using MDM but they cannot sell, use, or disclose user data to third parties. This is because using MDM provides parental control apps with great control and access to user data on the device. Apple wants to ensure that third-party apps don’t use this power in a malicious way by silently collecting and selling user data.

The company makes this clear in its updated App Store Review guidelines. The company is also enforcing a similar rule for VPN apps since they also get access to a user’s private data. Apple now prohibits VPN apps from selling or disclosing any user data to third parties and requires the commitment is made in their privacy policy. A number of VPN apps on the App Store had been silently collecting and selling user data to third-parties before Apple started cracking them down.

Guideline 5.5. (New) Because MDM provides access to sensitive data, MDM apps must request the mobile device management capability, and may only be offered by commercial enterprises, such as business organizations, educational institutions, or government agencies, and, in limited cases, companies utilizing MDM for parental controls. MDM apps may not sell, use, or disclose to third parties any data for any purpose, and must commit to this in their privacy policy.

The move from Apple comes after it was engaged in a war of words with many parental control apps on the App Store. Apple started cracking down on parental control apps after it debuted Screen Time in iOS 12 and offered functionality similar to many parental control apps.

When developers behind these apps brought this news to media attention, Apple clarified that it was forcing these apps to remove certain features because they made use of MDM which is meant for enterprise use. A bunch of parental control apps then got together and launched a campaign against Apple highlighting how it used its dominant position in the App Store for its own benefit and demanded a Screen Time API.

While Apple did not fulfill their wish of a Screen Time API, it is at least going to allow third-party parental control apps on the App Store to continue making use of MDM for various features in their apps. The move likely also comes from the fact that Apple is currently the possible subject of multiple antitrust investigations for abusing its dominant App Store position to kill competition.

[Via NY Times]