A large group of developers who create parental control apps have banded together to require Apple to come up with a technical solution that will allow them to continue working on the iPhone. They have gone so far to create a website and suggest a specification for an API that will give their apps enough access to track and limit the use of apps.
The movement is necessary because Apple had recently started blocking many of these apps because they used the Mobile Device Management (MDM) features on the iPhone. Apple has set a policy that these features should only be used by businesses.
There were two ways to interpret that move. The first is that it was part of a major review of MDM usage after what Apple saw as Facebook's abuse of the feature earlier this year. The other way that these programmers claim is that it is only a competitive way to protect Apple's own screen time and parental controls. "When Apple released its own screen-time management tool, it also started to remove established brands from the store or block updates to their apps," they write on their site.
As Jack Nicas on New York Times notes, this move was tracked into part of encouragement from former Apple CEO Tony Fadell. In a Twitter thread earlier this year Fadell claimed that Apple should create a full-fledged API, allowing businesses to create full-fledged parenting portfolios that could potentially work across different software platforms.
The ] Times has also reportedly seen a message from Fadell to the developers who read "I want to push it out to the world – just make sure it's finished before WWDC." "The timing is significant. It can put pressure on Apple to respond to an event that is usually a celebration of software competencies – or at least make sure that competition competition-limiting concerns at Apple are at people's sight during the event.
Such concerns would be all-minded. Only yesterday, Apple published a site that defends its App Store practice, responding to a major-case trial and a formal EU investigation, both underway.
The concern about Apple pulling third-party parental controls was large enough that Apple felt compelled to respond with a long letter defending its decision, claiming it drew the apps because they allowed them to use MDM outside a business context was dangerous :
Apple has always supported third-party applications on the App Store that help parents manage their children's devices. etching to what the New York Times reported this weekend, it's not about competition. It's about safety.
In this app category and in each category, we are committed to providing a competitive, innovative app ecosystem.
When we ask for an API, the development team asks Apple to put in real technical work to back up its commitment to a "competitive, innovative appo system." The developers are calling for "at least one of the following":
1. Access to App Use Data
2. Ability to block app access
3. Ability to Filter Web Traffic
It is likely to be a difficult question. Suggesting a specification for an API is one thing that actually convinces Apple that it's the right methodology and will protect the user's privacy, is quite different – to say nothing about convincing Apple to put in the effort to make it.
We've reached out to Apple for comment and will let you know if we return.