According to a new report, Apple’s App Store platform allows children to access adult-only applications and says that CSAM policies are not effective enough. The report claims that the current age restrictions and other cold safety controls don’t work as effectively as many thought they could.
The Tech Transparency Project posted the report:
The investigation reveals major holes in the App Store’s child safety measures, showing how easy it is for young teens to access adult apps that offer dating, random chats, casual sex, and gambling, even when Apple knows the user is a minor.
The results undermine Apple’s promise that its App Store is a “safe place for kids” and that it rejects apps that are “over the line — especially when it puts children at risk.”
The group set up an Apple ID with the age of 14 years and presumable without parental controls. They tested nearly 80 applications which were limited by people 17 and older. The result was that “the underage user could easily evade age restrictions in the vast majority of the cases.” The report said that some of the applications had a pop-up to confirm the user’s age, but if a child clicked “OK,” they were allowed to access everything without any limitations. All of this, despite the Apple ID being associated with a 14-year-old user.
“When the underage test account tried to download these adult apps, Apple served a pop-up message asking the user to confirm they were 17 or older. But if our 14-year-old user clicked “yes” to say they were 17+, Apple did nothing to prevent the download, despite knowing, by virtue of the Apple ID, that the user wasn’t old enough. That puts the onus on the apps themselves to prevent access by minors—and TTP found this system is far from reliable.”
The report also pointed out some “flaws and inconsistencies” in child safety:
“For example, 37 of the adult apps allowed registration with an Apple ID, and in each case, our 14-year-old user was able to use that method to sign up, even though Apple knew the ID was underage. If the apps asked for the user’s age, the minor would simply enter 18—again, with no intervention by Apple. The apps included HOO — Adult Hook Up & Friend Finder, Hahanono – Chat & Get Naughty, and Tinder.”
TPP also mentioned that the findings “strongly suggest” that Apple doesn’t share user age data with the apps in the App Store. The report also mentioned that some apps have 17+ ratings, but their functionality didn’t reflect it:
“Another interesting case is the chat app Yubo, which has been dubbed “Tinder for Teens.” It’s restricted to users 17 and up in the App Store, but the app itself allows users as young as 13 to register, and even says so in its terms of service.”
The report also claimed that some apps tested “appeared to be designed to minimize the possibility of learning if a user was underage”. This was seen in apps like Grindr, which told a 14-year-old to “come back later” when they entered their “true” date of birth. It’s clear that some of the CSAM policies are not being applied equally to all applications, and it remains to be seen what changes Apple will make to address these issues.
Google lowers Play Store fees for music apps and subscriptions
Google has said that it is lowering its commission fees for all subscription-based businesses on the Play Store. Earlier, Google used to charge 30% of the transaction amount from the developers. However, following the pressure from Senators, it followed Apple into lowering fees from 30% to 15% for developers who earned less than $1 million through the Play Store. Now, the company has expanded lowered 15% Play Store fees to subscription-based apps, and some “eligible ebooks and on-demand music streaming services” will enjoy an even lower fee of 10%.
Google says that 99% of the developers already qualify for the program it launched in May 2021. However, not all the apps are free and ad-supported. For those, it is launching what it’s calling the “Play Media Experience Program.” Developers will be able to apply through this portal and Google will lower the Play Store commission fees to 15% or 10% for them. The company says that it has “heard that customer churn makes it challenging for subscription businesses to benefit from that reduced rate.” So, the company says that developers can apply to the program. When asked about how developers will be able to know if they qualify for the reduced fees, Google in a statement to The Verge said, “developers can review program guidelines and express interest now and we’ll follow up with more information if they are eligible.”
Google, and Apple, are under scrutiny for monopolizing their app stores and services. Countries have started taking legal action against the tech giants — South Korea recently asked Google and Apple to allow third-party payment systems on their App Store that will effectively destroy their commission system.
Google says the new fees will come into effect starting January 1, 2022.
Source: Android Developers Blog
Via: The Verge
South Korea is the first country to declare war on Google and Apple commissions
Google and Apple are in trouble in South Korea as the Korean government has seemingly passed a bill that would ban Apple’s and Google’s app store payment requirements, potentially allowing developers to accept payments through other means. Currently, Apple and Google take up to a 30% commission fee from every in-app purchase made through their stores, but the amendment made in South Korea’s Telecommunications Business Act will stop developers to use in-house payment systems. South Korea’s National Assembly has passed the bill, and President Moon Jae-in is expected to sign the bill to convert it into law.
This is the first time a government has passed a bill to prevent Google and Apple from imposing their own payment terms on in-app purchases. South Korea’s preliminary committee voted on Wednesday, 25 August to proceed with the revised Telecommunication Business Act, attempting to restrict Google and Apple from charging app developers high commission on in-app purchases. The tech giants have been under scrutiny ever since Fortnite was kicked out of App Store about a year ago. Developers have been asking for a change for a long, and even though efforts like links for payment via email and 15% commission for small businesses have satisfied developers a bit, it still does not solve 100% of the problem.
As for consumers, it might mean in-app purchases at a lower cost. Developers charge a high price for, say an ad-free subscription, cause they get only 70% of the money. For example, an app charges $10 per month for removing ads. Even if the developer wants to charge only around $7 for ad removal, he/she will still have to charge $10 since the $3 is taken as App Store commission. If the developer opts for a third-party payment system, the developer may charge $7 cause he/she will still be getting the same amount. In short, you might see lower prices for in-app purchases if this is implemented around the world.
Apple said in its statement, “the proposed Telecommunications Business Act will put users who purchase digital goods from other sources at risk of fraud, undermine their privacy protections, make it difficult to manage their purchases, and features like ‘Ask to Buy’ and Parental Controls will become less effective.”
Apple defends its case by saying the commission fees go into the maintenance of the App Store, making sure all the apps are safe to use for iOS users. However, we’ve seen developers report a number of scams on the App Store in the past few months. It remains to be seen if other countries follow South Korea’s decision and take an action against the Apple-Google duopoly.
Apple to allow developers to get payments outside of their apps and the App Store, avoiding Apple’s commission
Apple, earlier this week, announced that it has reached a proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by the developers in the United States. Post court approval, the developers in the United States will be able to share information on how to pay for purchases outside of their iOS app or the App Store. Currently, Apple doesn’t allow the developers to directly contact the users informing them about alternate payment methods outside of their apps or App Store — such as PayPal or directly paying via links in the email. However, the Cupertino giant has decided to scrap the policy.
The updated App Store policy will benefit developers as for the people who choose to pay via outside App Store method, Apple will not be able to take the cut of the in-app purchases, which currently sits at 30% or 15% depending on your yearly turnover, and the whole amount will go to the developers.
Apple is clarifying that developers can use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app. As always, developers will not pay Apple a commission on any purchases taking place outside of their app or the App Store. Users must consent to the communication and have the right to opt-out,” Apple said in a blog post.
The lawsuit was filed by app developers Donald Cameron and Illinois Pure Sweat Basketball back in 2019, who acclaimed that the Cupertino giant engaged in anticompetitive practices.
Apart from letting users use the payment methods the outside App Store, Apple also announced that it will also create a $100 million fund for smaller app developers. Developers who earned less than $1 million a year from June 2015 to April 2021 can claim payouts from as low as $250 to as high as $30,000 from this fund. The developers who’re eligible for the payout can contact Apple via smallappdeveloperassistance.com
Apple is also expanding the pricing tiers available to developers, from fewer than 100 to more than 500. The company also says that it will publish a new annual transparency report that will share information about the app review process, including the details of how many apps are rejected, the number of customer and developer accounts deactivated, and other app review processes details.
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