Apple’s Phil Schiller Explains Reason For Third-Party Screen Time App Bans

Digital wellness apps and products have become increasingly popular in recent years. Parents in particular have started to use “screen time apps” to monitor the amount of time their children are playing games or watching shows on their devices. Unfortunately, according to Apple, not all screen time apps are created equal and the company recently banned several of them due to privacy violations.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, reported that Apple has banned apps that have misused mobile device management (MDM) systems. The offending MDM apps tracked information about children’s devices and then shared that information with parents who downloaded the apps. Schiller argued that these apps “pose a threat to consumers privacy and security” and could particularly violate children’s privacy.

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What should parents do if they would like to track their children’s screen time? Schiller noted apps that do not use MDM system have not been banned. He recommended the Moment- Balance Screen app. The app requires users to upload their “Battery” screen everyday. The app then analyzes the most used apps and shares that data with the user. Unfortunately, this app is far clunkier than the banned MDM apps, but it still gets the job done. 

It does appear that Apple is working on creating a more convenient solution, however. Schiller remarked, “We will continue to provide features, like ScreenTime, designed to help parents manage their children’s access to technology and we will work with developers to offer many great apps on the App Store for these uses, using technologies that are safe and private for us and our children.”

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Some users believe that Apple has purposely banned time management apps to make room for their own recently released “ScreenTime” app. Apple’s latest app provides users with real-time reports about device, app, and website usage. Users can also create dedicated passwords, set app limits and downtime, and restrict inappropriate content.

This would not be the first time Apple has removed apps that compete with their own. Kaspersky Labs has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in Russia over restrictions that were recently placed on their Kaspersky Safe Kids app. Kaspersky claims that Apple did not have a problem with their Safe Kids app for over three years. Apple only placed restrictions on the Kaspersky app after they announced their own ScreenTime app. It will be interesting to see whether or not any of the developers behind the MDM system apps will follow Kaspersky's example.