Kaspersky: Apple Limited Our Parental Controls App to Promote Screen Time

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

Kaspersky announced this week that it has filed an anti-trust complaint against Apple with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) over the Apple App Store by banning features from the Kaspersky Safe Kids parental control app. The cybersecurity company accused Apple of issuing the ban only after announcing its own parental control software for iOS users, Screen Time 

According to Kaspersky, it received a notice from Apple last year saying that the configuration profiles of the Kaspersky Safe Kids app were no longer meeting the requirements of App Store’s policies. However, Kaspersky said Apple never had a problem with its application before this.

The removal and general ban of configuration profiles meant the elimination of two key features of Kaspersky’s app, including app control and Safari browser blocking, Kaspersky said. According to the security firm, these features are essential. The first feature allows parents to block apps they don’t want their kids to run. The second one blocks all browsers on the device except for Kaspersky’s kid-safe browser.

Restrictions Following Launch of Apple Screen Time

Kaspersky said Apple blocked the features of its parental control app after launching its own version of a parental control application, Screen Time. Screen Time allows users to set application restrictions, such as when and for how long an app can be used throughout the day.

Kaspersky believes Apple's restrictions to the Safe Kids app following the launch of Screen Time constitutes an abuse of power worthy of an antitrust complaint in Russia. Apple controls the distribution channel for iOS applications and can leverage this power to enter various markets -- in this case, the parental control software market. Kaspersky’s argument is that by banning or crippling competitors, Apple will become a monopoly in this or other markets.

"From our point of view, Apple appears to be using its position as platform owner and supervisor of the sole channel for delivering apps to users of the platform to dictate terms and prevent other developers from operating on equal terms with it. As a result of the new rules, developers of parental control apps may lose some of their users and experience financial impact," Kaspersky said in its blog post, adding that it "repeatedly" tried to contact Apple but did not reach any "meaningful negotiations." 

Reining In On Monopolies

Kaspersky also filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft in 2017, accusing it of leveraging monopoly power in the PC market and using questionable tactics to promote its own Windows antivirus software over third-party ones. Eventually, Kaspersky withdrew the complaint.

This month, Spotify filed its own antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union over the high commission fee Apple charges music streaming service providers. Spotify’s argument is that Apple charges this fee while offering a similar service unimpeded by the samefee. 

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren this month proposed that large companies that become monopolies and own distribution channels should not be allowed to publish their own products on those platforms. The argument is that this incentivizes the platform owners to change the platform’s rules so that their own products are recommended above those of competitors.

The European Commission (EC) charged Google with something similar last year in the Android antitrust case, as well as the Google Shopping antitrust case in 2017. In both of those cases, the EC accused Google of using its leverage over the platform to promote its own products. And this week, the EU hit Google with a  €1.5 billion fine over online advertising practices. 

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.