Apple has quietly reversed a controversial change to its App Store policy set in place earlier this year as antitrust investigations by regulators loom.
Mobile Device Management Controversy
In 2018, Apple warned developers of certain parental control software that they were in violation of App Store policies. The root issue was that these developers were taking advantage of a new Apple feature – mobile device management (MDM).
These set of tools give developers access to a user’s location, email accounts, camera, app use and browsing history. According to Apple, its use was meant to be restricted to enterprise-level users only. It all makes sense, especially considering the company’s increasing focus on privacy, and, granted the rule had been in place since 2017.
Apple also acknowledges that the feature can find legitimate uses in a corporate setting, allowing businesses to monitor company devices and control what happens within them. Even so, using it on consumer-facing devices is a clear violation of App Store policy. This would have been all well and good if Apple wasn’t planning to release its own native screen management software in the weeks to come.
More Controversy with Search Ranking
More recently, Apple has come under fire for how it ranks its own Apps on the App Store. It’s not too dissimilar from that time Google was sued for prioritizing its own apps on Google search for common terms (and lost).
A reporter from the New York Times noticed that different devices rank apps differently, and it seemed to rely mostly on the model of the device.
According to their findings, more recent devices feature Apple’s own apps more prominently than older devices (specifically, iOS 8.3), and the apps tend to show up even when not relevant. So much so that some search queries returned multiple of Apple’s own apps first before showing other devices.
This is made more apparent when it was discovered that the desktop version of the app, which Apple made specifically to show people that it encourages competition, is not affected by the same issue.
Not the First Time
Apple admitted to the issue, stating that a new algorithm change had made the App Store return the company’s own apps, but this wasn’t programmed directly into it.
The reason behind it is that their own apps are so popular they show up in most search results for common terms. When first challenged with the issue, they supposedly made changes, but those changes had little to no effect on the rankings, the New York Times notes.
A Subtle Change