Security vendor says Apple nixed key features to favor its own safe surfing app
Russian endpoint security vendor Kaspersky Lab this week filed a complaint with Russian antitrust regulators against Apple, claiming the U.S. tech giant forced them to remove key features from a safe Web surfing app just as Apple was releasing its own competing product.
The Lowdown: At issue is Kaspersky’s Safe Kids, an app that gives parents a set of controls to manage what their children can view online and for how long. According to Kaspersky officials, the app had been hosted in Apple’s App Store for more than three years before the vendor was notified last year that its use of configuration profiles violated Apple policy.
In order to keep the app published in the App Store, Kaspersky had to disable two key features of the product: app control and browser blocking. According to Kaspersky, that meant Safe Kids was no longer able to deliver two essential functions: the ability to let parents specify which apps their children can run and the ability to hide all browsers on the device, forcing kids to open Web pages in Kaspersky Safe Kids’ secured browser.
The Details: In their complaint filed with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service, Kaspersky claims the change in Apple’s policy toward the Smart Kids app coincided with Apple’s introduction of its own Screen Time parental control features within iOS 12. Kaspersky officials said the crackdown on parental control apps went beyond Smart Kids and impacted a number of other developers of similar products, but it didn’t name any other aggrieved parties in their public statements on the matter.
Kaspersky said it had repeatedly tried to contact Apple to resolve the situation, “but no meaningful negotiations have ensued.” Apple has yet to comment on the Kaspersky complaint.
The Buzz: “One might argue that the App Store is owned by Apple itself, so why should the company not call the shots?” Kaspersky officials wrote in a blog post announcing the decision to file the complaint. “The problem is that Apple does not allow the use of any other software marketplaces for iOS, so it effectively controls the only channel for delivering apps from developers to users.
“By setting its own rules for that channel, it extends its power in the market over other, adjacent markets: for example, the parental control software market, where it has only just become a player,” Kapsersky officials wrote. “It is precisely in this extension of its leverage through possession of so-called ‘key capacity’ over other segments, leading to restriction and elimination of competition, that we see the essential elements of antitrust law violation, which consist of erecting barriers and discriminating against our software.”