Apple on Sunday fired back at a New York Times report that said the company has been using its hold on the App Store to hurt competitors' products.
A Saturdaysaid that in the past year, Apple has targeted 11 of the 17 most downloaded third-party apps designed to help phone users limit screen time or oversee their children's phone use. Apple either removed the apps from the App Store outright or restricted them in some way, the Times said.
But Apple on Sunday published a statement in its newsroom titled, "The facts about parental control apps." In it, the company said it recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store because "they put users' privacy and security at risk."
Over the past year Apple said it became aware that several of the apps utilized mobile device management (MDM) software. This "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." MDM software is often used by businesses to easily manage and control their employees' devices, but Apple said that in mid-2017 it updated its guidelines about the use of MDM for non-enterprise purposes.
"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," Apple said. "Beyond the control that the app itself can exert over the user's device, research has shown that MDM profiles could be used by hackers to gain access for malicious purposes."
Apple said it gave the app developers 30 days to fix the guideline violations. Several did, but the others that didn't had their apps removed from the App Store.
"Apple has always supported third-party apps on the App Store that help parents manage their kids' devices," the company said. "Contrary to what The New York Times reported over the weekend, this isn't a matter of competition. It's a matter of security."
Apple's Screen Time feature came following backlash from investors and users over concerns about phone addiction among children. Two of Apple's major shareholders published an open letter in January 2018 that asked Apple to take a socially responsible approach toward children's device use. It cited concerns about mental health problems and other issues that come from heavy phone use.
The Times report on Saturday said the makers of two of the App Store's most popular parental control apps filed a complaint Thursday with the European Union's competition office, with one saying Apple compelled it to alter its app in ways that made it less effective than Apple's parental controls.
Last month, music-streaming service Spotify filed a complaint about Apple with European Union regulators, saying the Apple Music purveyor uses its grip on the App Store to stifle innovation, weaken competition and unfairly tax its rivals. Apple called Spotify's claims "misleading."