Apple Backtracks on Crackdown of Parental-Control Apps That Use Mobile Device Management

Apple has backtracked on its plan to ban apps that use a technology the company described as “highly invasive.”

In a blog post on Monday, Apple released a series of updates to its App Store review policies. Among the guidelines was an update on the use of Mobile Device Management (MDM), reads a new report from the New York Times.

Apple last year began banning digital wellness apps from its App Store for iOS after it added similar features to its mobile platform. The rationale for this banning was classic Apple misdirection: The apps were utilizing MDM technologies that Apple said were reserved only for its enterprise customers, thus violating its terms of service and users’ privacy.

“These apps were using an enterprise technology that provided them access to kids’ highly sensitive personal data,” an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement. “We do not think it is O.K. for any apps to help data companies track or optimize advertising of kids.”

The story was reported by the New York Times in April, and the apps affected by the purge claimed that the move coincided with Apple releasing its own Screen Time feature. Two of the apps — Kidslox and Qustodio — said they were submitting a complaint to the European Union. At the time, Apple said in a blog post that removing the apps was nothing to do with quashing competition but a matter of security.

On Monday, as information broke that federal officers have been stepping up antitrust scrutiny of Apple and its friends, the Cupertino company abruptly reversed its coverage and quietly disclosed that the apps’ practices will be allowed in its App Store. These apps are now allowed but are restricted from selling, using or disclosing user data to third parties.

The rules apply immediately to new apps seeking entrance to the store. Existing apps will have to support the guidelines by September 3, 2019.