Apple is cracking down on third-party screen time trackers in the App Store with stricter reviews and in several cases, removal from the App Store.
At least some developers were told they were in violation of an App Store guideline against “misusing background location mode for purposes other than location-related features.” Others, though, were told they were using public APIs in an unapproved way or simply that their implementations of screen time tracking or parental controls were no longer allowed.
What’s important to note is that these applications had not been using any official, Apple-approved frameworks or methods for tracking screen time. Instead, they relied on combinations of VPNs, MDM solutions, and background location functionality. In some cases, they create privacy concerns for Apple and the end-user.
Space and Mute are now back on the App Store, but only after their developers published blog posts complaining about the removal. Those posts prompted phone calls from Apple representatives. The developers were reportedly asked how they handle data privacy, and told by Apple that they must have customer-facing features that require background location data.
Not all applications have had such luck, though, including OurPact and ACTIVATE FITNESS. Both of these applications were informed by Apple that they could no longer use MDM – mobile device management – technology for building screen time functionality.