We all know the frustration: You can sign up for a service or new app account or something with a few quick taps in an app or clicks on a webpage, but when you try to delete your account you have to call a customer service number during inconvenient business hours and sit on hold for a while.
Apple can’t do anything about that over the entire internet, but it has full control over the rules of the App Store.
In June, Apple updated the App Store Review Guidelines section 5.1.1. Section (v) now clearly states: “If your app doesn’t include significant account-based features, let people use it without a login. If your app supports account creation, you must also offer account deletion within the app. Apps may not require users to enter personal information to function, except when directly relevant to the core functionality of the app or required by law…” (emphasis ours)
Apple rarely makes sweeping changes to its App rules without giving developers time to adjust, especially if it could potentially require significant development work. The company just posted a notice to its developer site stating that the rule will be enforced for all app submissions beginning on January 31, 2022:
The updates to App Store Review Guideline 5.1.1 last June provided users with greater control over their personal data, stating that all apps that allow for account creation must also allow users to initiate deletion of their account from within the app. This requirement applies to all app submissions starting January 31, 2022. We encourage you to review any laws that may require you to maintain certain types of data, and to make sure your app clearly explains what data your app collects, how it collects that data, all uses of that data, your data retention/deletion policies, and more as described in the guideline. Examples of this type of data include electronic health records, and sales and warranty records. Please also confirm that the app privacy information on your product page is accurate.
What does this change mean for you? Ideally, it means that actually deleting an account in an app would take just a few taps and maybe an email with a confirmation link. Apple’s language says, “allow users to initiate deletion” in this statement, which is rather vague and could mean developers simply provide a link that kicks you off to a web page where you are given a support number to call within inconvenient business hours.
The actual App Store Review Guidelines are less fuzzy, and clearly state that developers must offer account deletion within the app. Apple’s “initiate deletion” language is likely intended to allow developers to do things like send confirmation emails or texts–standard fraud and malice prevention measures.