Apr 29, 2019

Why Apple is cracking down on time-limit apps

Ina Fried, author of Login

Photo: Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Image

Apple insists that a crackdown on apps designed to help parents manage their kids' screen time is about security and privacy rather than an effort to stamp out competition.

Driving the news: The iPhone maker's defense follows a New York Times report that 11 of the top 17 parental control apps in the Apple App Store had been removed or restricted in the past year.

  • With iOS 12, which arrived last fall, Apple added Screen Time, a feature that tells users how much time they are spending on various apps and allows parents to set detailed time limits for their children.
  • Managing and limiting screen time has emerged as a top issue for parents.

What they're saying: "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," the company said in a statement on Sunday.

  • Apple said that the removed apps, unlike several that remain, are able to monitor and control app usage by misusing a mobile device management feature.
  • The feature is one that Apple created to let businesses restrict which apps are installed on devices they own or control, but Apple says consumer app makers are prohibited from using it.

The big picture: Apple is facing complaints on several fronts that it makes life hard for developers.

  • Spotify, for example, says third party music apps have to play by rules that are different from Apple's own music service.

Yes, but: In this debate, Apple isn't helped by its history of enforcing rules that make it harder to offer apps that compete with features in its operating systems. And several makers of the removed apps told NYT that Apple's motives are less than pure...

  • Fred Stutzman, CEO of Freedom, asked, "Can you really trust that Apple wants people to spend less time on their phones?"
  • Amir Moussavian, CEO of OurPact, said, "They are systematically killing the industry."

The other side: Apple keeps a tighter hold over its app ecosystem than Google does with Android. And Android developers have far deeper access to the operating system, for better — and worse.

  • That leaves more options for developing screen time trackers and other types of software.
  • It also leaves users open to more types of security and privacy threats.

Go deeper: World Health Organization says babies shouldn't look at screens

Go deeper

Updated 41 mins ago - Technology

Twitter: Trump's Minnesota tweet violated rules on violence

Twitter said Friday morning that a tweet from President Trump in which he threatened shooting in response to civil unrest in Minneapolis violated the company's rules. The company said it was leaving the tweet up in the public interest.

Why it matters: The move exacerbates tensions between Twitter and Trump over the company's authority to label or limit his speech and, conversely, the president's authority to dictate rules for a private company.

Updated 55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump threatens to "assume control" of Minneapolis over unrest

Flames from a nearby fire illuminate protesters standing on a barricade in front of the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis on Thursday. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump threatened via Twitter early Friday to send the national guard to Minneapolis following three days of massive demonstrations and unrest in the city over George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody this week.

Details: "I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right," Trump tweeted after a police station was torched by some protesters.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Protests over George Floyd's death grip Minneapolis

Protesters cheer as the Third Police Precinct burns behind them on in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Cheering protesters set a Minneapolis police station on fire Thursday night in the third night of unrest following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in the city, per AP.

The state of play: Minnesota's governor on Thursday activated the state's national guard following violent outbreaks throughout the week, as the nation waits to see if the officers involved will be charged with murder.