Changes to Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines are facing backlash from developers across a variety of industries.
In changes to Guidelines 1.3 and 5.1.4, Apple placed limits on third-party tracking in child-centric apps. Specifically, “apps in the kids category and apps intended for kids cannot include third-party advertising or analytics software and may not transmit data to third parties.”
Guideline 4.7 mandates that “HTML5 games distributed in apps may not provide access to real money gaming, lotteries or charitable donations, and may not support digital commerce. This functionality is only appropriate for code that’s embedded in the binary and can be reviewed by Apple.” It also prohibits virtual private network apps from selling, using, or disclosing any private data.
The change took immediate effect for new apps, with existing apps required to follow the updated guidelines as of Sept. 3. While intended to boost the privacy rights of younger users, the policy change has faced criticism.
Paula Kerger, CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), told cnet.com that the PBS Kids app would be removed due to Apple’s changes.
“We have millions of kids that are using our apps, so it’s a challenge,” Kerger said, when explaining that PBS uses the information it collects to make its apps more effective as educational tools. “We’re not selling stuff to kids.”
PBS isn’t alone in its objections to Apple’s changes.
The gaming industry is facing a major challenge now that the updated policy requires such apps to be natively built rather than using a container app.
Apple’s definition of “real money gaming” includes sports betting, poker games, casino games, and horse racing.
“[The policy change] is going to hurt a lot of people,” Stuart Godfree, managing director and cofounder of mkodo, a gambling app and software developer, told Online Poker Report. “Rebuilding a game will take several months; just look at the size of the [games] portfolio that people have. It’s huge.”
He estimated that to build an HTML5 game natively for the iOS platform would take roughly eight weeks, with up to six months for a sportsbook.
To read the changes to the App Store Review Guidelines, click here.
Why it matters: The policy changes are part of a concerted effort by Apple to improve user privacy, but the updates are posing serious problems for various businesses, from kid-centric apps to the gaming industry. Sports betting apps are particularly concerned, as the Sept. 3 deadline coincides with the start of the NFL season on Sept. 5.