Apple comes under antitrust pressure in Russia

Apple recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and they did it for a simple reason: those apps put users’ privacy and security at risk.

Sean Keane for CNET:

Russia’s competition watchdog is probing Apple over allegations that it’s abusing its dominance over iOS apps. The complaint came from cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia (FAS) is looking into why Kaspersky’s Safe Kids parent control app wasn’t updated — causing a major loss in its functionality — while Apple’s own Screen Time was.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple is right to enforce strict guideline violations, especially in cases as concerning as MDM abuse. It’s simply a matter of security.

Apple Inc. in April released an official statement regarding the removal of parental control apps from the App Store. Here it is, verbatim:

APPLE STATEMENT
April 28, 2019

The facts about parental control apps

Apple has always believed that parents should have tools to manage their children’s device usage. It’s the reason we created, and continue to develop, Screen Time. Other apps in the App Store, including Balance Screen Time by Moment Health and Verizon Smart Family, give parents the power to balance the benefits of technology with other activities that help young minds learn and grow.

We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users’ privacy and security at risk. It’s important to understand why and how this happened.

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. 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.

MDM does have legitimate uses. Businesses will sometimes install MDM on enterprise devices to keep better control over proprietary data and hardware. 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. 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.

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.

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 to avoid availability interruption in the App Store. Several developers released updates to bring their apps in line with these policies. Those that didn’t were removed from the App Store.
We created the App Store to provide a secure, vibrant marketplace where developers and entrepreneurs can bring their ideas to users worldwide, and users can have faith that the apps they discover meet Apple’s standards of security and responsibility.

Apple has always supported third-party apps on the App Store that help parents manage their kids’ devices. Contrary to what The New York Times reported over the weekend, this isn’t a matter of competition. It’s a matter of security.

In this app category, and in every category, we are committed to providing a competitive, innovative app ecosystem. There are many tremendously successful apps that offer functions and services similar to Apple’s in categories like messaging, maps, email, music, web browsers, photos, note-taking apps, contact managers and payment systems, just to name a few. We are committed to offering a place for these apps to thrive as they improve the user experience for everyone.

10 Comments

  1. Kapersky is probably a Trojan horse for getting into many systems. I don’t trust any tech that comes out of Russia. There’s usually an agenda to develop the ability to get data from systems.

    1. Exactly. Just like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Yet here on this page, MDN proudly links and sends data to all three scummy US publicly traded spy corporations. Ironic.

  2. Folks, the real story, here, is one that may be missed elsewhere… that all this hoopla about antitrust probes is not about Apple having a monopoly or otherwise unfair to competitors, nor charging too much for app developers to place their apps into the iOS App Store. What it’s really all about is the “closed” nature of apps we can install on our iPhones.

    Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m behind Apple on this 100%. But from the very beginning Windows-users and Android-users have been harping on how Apple “forces” iPhone-users to “only buy their apps from Apple.” And, as more and more of these folks get iPhones, more and more people resent anyone telling them what apps can and cannot be installed on THEIR phones. In other words, “Apple is exercising unfair, monopolistic control over the iPHONE market.”

    This has never come up on the Mac because (of course) Apple cannot prevent anyone from installing anything they want on their Mac. Perhaps this will be the final outcome of all these antitrust suits — that Apple will be forced to open the iOS platform — i.e., once you buy an iPhone it belongs to you, and you can install anything you wish on it. (And, like the Mac, for those who really care about function and their security, there is the Apple iOS App Store.)

    1. Those people are idiots. “I don’ want Apple to protect me from spying and viruses. Pout. Stomp foot. I don’t want Apple to protect my 12-year-old daughter from being stalked.”

  3. Putin doesn’t like companies that have an unfair advantage in Russia… unless he’s the owner of such a company.

    There’s just no winning with Apple. A company with such a minuscule amount of market share becomes the target of the Russian MOB (or FAS). Meanwhile, Android OS with 90% market share gets away clean.

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