Apple softens its approach to parental control apps

Back in April, Apple came under fire from a group of parental control and screen time monitoring apps, after kicking a load of them off the App Store for violating the company’s rules on Mobile Device Management (MDM).

MDM is a technology that’s generally used by businesses for deploying company phones, and subsequently offers what Apple describes as “sensitive information” about “location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions and browsing history”. All the things that are quite useful for parental control apps.

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The people behind the apps in question, however, couldn’t help but notice the curious timing of the bans, which occurred just as Apple launched its own Screen Time app. “Their incentives aren’t really aligned for helping people solve their problem,” said Fred Stutzman, CEO of screen-time app Freedom, at the time.

Now it seems Apple has backtracked a little bit on its original ruling that MDM should be off limits for parental control apps. As spotted by MacRumors, the changelog of the App Store review guidelines now states that “in limited cases” companies “utilising MDM for parental controls” may be permitted. The rest of the use cases remain familiar: “business organisations, educational institutions, or government agencies.”

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The guidelines also mention that “Certain types of apps — such as those for parental control, content blocking, and security — from approved providers may use the NEVPNManager API.”

It’s a curious climbdown. After the original New York Times story on the banned or cut-back parental control apps, Apple went as far as to put out a press release explaining its rationale, calling MDM “highly invasive”. That it now considers MDM fair game for some parental control apps is an unusual change of heart for a company that has a reputation for stubbornly sticking to its guns.

Is Apple right to open up MDM to parental control apps? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.

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