Apple has defended its decision to remove third-party screen-limiting apps that helped people fight iPhone addiction, saying these apps put users' privacy and security at risk. Apple had removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps. In a blog post on late Sunday, the Cupertino-based iPhone maker said the use of mobile device management (MDM) technologies in the removed parental control apps could have leaked users' location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions and browsing history to a third party.
"MDM does have legitimate uses, but it is incredibly risky -- and a clear violation of App Store policies -- for a private, consumer-focused app business to install MDM control over a customer's device," the iPhone-maker wrote.
Research has shown that MDM profiles could be used by hackers to gain access for malicious purposes.
"Parents shouldn't have to trade their fears of their children's device usage for risks to privacy and security, and the App Store should not be a platform to force this choice. No one, except you, should have unrestricted access to manage your child's device," said Apple.
Earlier in December, Apple had started warning developers developing third-party screen-time trackers and parental control apps because they were suspected to have been violating App Store guidelines and misusing background location mode for purposes other than location-related features.
"When we found out about these guideline violations, we communicated these violations to the app developers, giving them 30 days to submit an updated app.
"Several developers released updates to bring their apps in line with these policies and those that didn't were removed from the App Store," Apple said.
With the launch of iOS 12 in September last year, the company implemented its own built-in screen time tracking tools and controls.