Here’s What’s Going On In The Privacy Battle Between Apple vs. iPhone Parenting Apps

Over the past year or so, Apple has either removed or restricted some third party apps which help parents manage their children’s iPhone or iPad usage from its Apple store. The reason for taking this action, Apple says, is that the third party apps present a privacy and security risk. 

At least one parent control app developer company is raising a complaint that Apple’s decision is misleading and that Apple’s motivations are to have complete control providing its own parent control app to be used by its iPhone and iPad users.

According to CNet, the conflict between Apple and the third party parent control app developers is their use of a mobile device management software or MDM. MDM was originally developed or businesses to to help them keep workers personal mobile devices secure in the business environment. This MDM though can also be used for parental control over what children use their mobile devices for, as well as tracking the length of usage time and to which apps and websites their children would have access.

In the workplace, businesses use MDM to manage cellphones owned by their employees for security purposes to protect corporate information.

Parental control apps provide parents with the tools to manage their children’s access to the following: apps, games, filtering websites, blocking inappropriate content, setting time limits for usage, tracking the location of the phone, setting up geo-fences and monitoring phone call activity as well as social-media posts.

While there is an overlap in capabilities between parent control and MDM the goals are different in that parent control apps are designed to keep their kids out of trouble and MDMs are designed to protect corporate data.

Parent control apps developed by third party companies were removed by Apple because the company said they violated the Apple Store guidelines by using MDM to control a child’s device. MDM is approved only for business devices but not for general consumer-focused apps. Even more important, Apple states research has shown that MDM developed apps could be vulnerableto hackers giving them access for malicious purposes.

According to the New York Times, Apple has banned 11 third-party apps developed to manage children cellphone usage among which are OurPact (the top parental-control iPhone app before it was banned), Qustodio, Kaspersky Lab, Freedom,Mobicip, and Kidslox.

Apple has parental controls set up for use in its older devices, but in its iOS 12 it has its own app called Screen Time which allows parents to see how much time their children spend on their iPhone or iPad devices to use apps and view websites. Parents can also set time limits with Screen Time and also mute notifications or block downloads, even purchases and specific types of content.