Apple's Crackdown on Screen Usage and Parental Control Apps Stirs Controversy

The New York Times recently published an article attacking Apple's recent moves that some have perceived harm both app developers and iPhone users. In Apple Cracks Down on Apps That Fight iPhone Addiction, the article reports that "Apple has removed or restricted 11 of the most 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps" from its App Store over the past year. In some instances, Apple's removal came without warning to the user or app developer. This action has infuriated certain iPhone users, and threatened the business viability of some app developers.

Not surprisingly, consumer protection groups and developers have not responded well to Apple's move and have voiced their opinion to Apple through emails, calls, and even an anti-trust lawsuit. Those who believe Apple is up to no good, cite two driving factors. First, limiting iPhone users' usage hurts Apple's core business. While this may be True, Apple CEO, Time Cook, recently said, "We don't want people using their phones all the time. This has never been an objective for us."

The second argument against Apple revolves around its recent launch of Screen Time. Screen Time is Apple's homegrown iPhone usage and reporting app. Despite this argument, Apple has not deleted all monitoring apps, and the company has specifically called out good examples of third party monitoring apps (e.g. Moment - Balance Screen Time) when responding to recent complaints. If Apple is suggesting third party apps for screen usage and parental control, are there two sides to this story? Yes.

Apple suggests that its recent crackdown on monitoring apps has more to do with privacy and security. The company claims that the apps it has removed were abusively using Apple's mobile device management system. Apps were gaining too much information about overall usage, which causes a threat to the iPhone user's privacy and overall security. Accordingly, Apple suggests that it will continue to support third party app developers who build monitoring and reporting apps without using the mobile device management system to do so.

So what's the truth? We don't know, and we may never know. Most of the reporting is based on private emails and exchanges. Apple hasn't made a public statement yet, but we will wait and see.

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