Over a dozen parental control app developers have come together with a shared message for Apple: it’s “time to put kids first.”
Together, they have launched a new website called Screen Time API that urges Apple to release a public API granting developers access to the same functionalities that iOS 12’s Screen Time feature uses. The developers have even proposed their own API, complete with samples of code and a diagram of how it would work.
“Protecting children online and teaching them good technology use habits are some of the biggest challenges facing modern parents,” the developers plea. “That’s why developers need a cross platform, open screen time API.”
The website, shared by The New York Times and The Verge, is a joint effort by OurPact, Kidslox, Qustodio, Screen Time Labs, Safe Lagoon, MMGuardian, Boomerang, Family Orbit, Netsanity, unGlue, Mobicip, Activate Fitness, Parents Dans Les Parages, Lilu, FamilyTime, Bosco, and Tittle.
The developers were encouraged to act by Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive known as the “Father of the iPod.” Fadell backed the developers in a series of tweets, and according to The New York Times, he also said he would help “push” their message “out to the world,” adding “just make sure it’s done BEFORE WWDC.”
The campaign comes a month after The New York Times reported that Apple had removed or restricted many of the most popular screen time and parental control apps on the App Store since launching its own Screen Time feature in iOS 12 last year, raising concerns over potentially anticompetitive behavior.
Apple was quick to respond, stating that it became aware over the last year that some parental control apps were using a technology called Mobile Device Management or “MDM” that puts users’ privacy and security at risk.
“Contrary to what The New York Times reported over the weekend, this isn’t a matter of competition,” wrote Apple. “It’s a matter of security.”
MDM technology is intended for enterprise users to manage their company-owned devices, and Apple says the use of MDM by consumer-focused apps carries privacy and security concerns that resulted in Apple addressing the situation in its App Store review guidelines in mid-2017.
Apple added that when it found out about these App Store guideline violations, it communicated with the necessary developers, giving them 30 days to submit an updated app to avoid being removed from the App Store.
Many developers quickly refuted parts of Apple’s press release, with OurPact claiming that its parental control app for children was removed from the App Store on October 6, 2018 without any prior communication from Apple, just three weeks after iOS 12 was publicly released with Screen Time.
Three other developers added that Apple was slow to respond and did not provide any resolution for the sudden guideline violations.
Apple has yet to indicate whether it will release a public API for Screen Time. While it is certainly possible that Apple could announce that it will offer such an API at its WWDC 2019 keynote next week, on short notice, no rumors have indicated that the API is coming in the initial release of iOS 13.