Removed parental control app says Apple is being misleading

One of the parental control apps removed from the App Store has hit out at Apple’s “misleading comments.”

A New York Times report initially claimed that Apple had removed apps offering similar features to its own Screen Time tool. Apple then issued its own statement, saying that it removed them due to privacy and security risks.

But the makers of OurPact says it’s not that simple.

“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,” Apple wrote. “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. We started exploring this use of MDM by non-enterprise developers back in early 2017 and updated our guidelines based on that work in mid-2017.”

Apple then said that MDM profiles can be used to exert control over users’ devices and can be maliciously exploited by hackers. It claims that it gave violating app developers 30 days to submit an updated app which made necessary changes. Those which didn’t were removed from the App Store.

Is Apple being misleading?

So far, so simple, right? Except that OurPact says that Apple is being misleading about MDM. In a post on Medium, the company says that:

“OurPact’s core functionality would not be possible without the use of MDM; it is the only API available for the Apple platform that enables the remote management of applications and functions on children’s devices … Apple recently stated that its own MDM technology, used by millions, poses risks to user privacy and can be abused by hackers. This stands in contradiction to the fact that MDM technology was initially developed by Apple to ensure security of private data on remotely managed devices. Apple alone issues certificates to third parties to communicate with their MDM servers, and Apple themselves are responsible for sending all MDM commands to user devices.”

OurPact says that, if Apple offered alternate APIs for Screen Time apps, it would willingly use them. However, its attempts at opening up a dialog about this have been ignored. The company says that its app complies with all global data protection laws, including Europe’s stringent GDPR guidelines.

It also said that OurPact has previously been approved for the App Store 37 times, “with documented use of MDM.” It disputes that Apple gave it 30 days before removing the app, saying that, “We did not receive any notice.”

It remains to be seen whether OurPact will be reinstated in the App Store. We’ll keep you posted.