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Apple Says Screen Time and Parental Control Apps Removed Due to 'Privacy and Security Risk'

"Can you really trust that Apple wants people to spend less time on their phones?"

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Apple Says Screen Time and Parental Control Apps Removed Due to 'Privacy and Security Risk'

In a crackdown on third-party apps that help people fight iPhone addiction, Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps over the past year, The New York Times reported.

While Apple now has its own screen-time tracker, it is not very effective in fighting addiction, claim executives at third party screen-time app makers.

"Their incentives aren't really aligned for helping people solve their problem," Fred Stutzman, Chief Executive of Freedom, a screen-time app, was quoted as saying.

The Freedom app was downloaded 770,000 times before Apple removed it in August 2018.

"Can you really trust that Apple wants people to spend less time on their phones?,” Stutzman added.

The executives at the third-party app makers fear that they are being punished because their apps could be roadblocks on Apple's business growth.

Apple, however, said that it removed or required changes to the apps because they could gain too much information from users' devices.

"We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users' privacy and security at risk. It's important to understand why and how this happened,” Apple said in a post on its website.

"Over the last year, we became aware that several of these parental control apps were using a highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM. MDM gives a third party control and access over a device and its most sensitive information including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history,” the post added.

"They yanked us out of the blue with no warning," Amir Moussavian, CEO of OurPact, the top parental-control iPhone app, was quoted as saying.

Apple pulled OurPact in February, said the New York Times report on Saturday, adding that the screen time app makers are now at the mercy of the tech titan. Apple can play with the future of these app makers as it controls the iPhone App Store.

Apple is also coming heavily on popular apps that help parents to have control over how their kids use iPhones, according to the report.

Two such apps, Kidslox and Qustodio, filed a complaint with the European Union's competition office on Thursday, it added.

"We treat all apps the same, including those that compete with our own services," Tammy Levine, an Apple spokeswoman, was quoted as saying.

"Our incentive is to have a vibrant app ecosystem that provides consumers access to as many quality apps as possible," She said.

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Further reading: Apple, NYT, Freedom, OurPact, App Store, Screen Time
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