Popular iPhone apps caught recording screens without user knowledge

10 February, 2019, 21:54 | Author: Patty Hardy
  • The home screen on the iPhone XS

These session replays let app developers record the screen and play them back to see how its users interacted with the app to figure out if something didn't work or if there was an error.

However, that means personal information was recorded the entire time, and then sent back to developers.

We have to thank App Analyst as he raises the issue, who has uploaded that Screenshots captured by Air Canada, which uses Glassbox for analytics, apps were also saving passwords and other important, private information and data while failing to properly redact the data.

Some of the entities whose apps have been found to engage in screen recording include Air Canada, Hollister, Expedia, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hotels.com, and Singapore Airlines. TechCrunch's comprehensive investigation mentions a specific analytics firm called Glassbox as being used by most travel apps for this objective.

"Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem", an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. Although all apps submitted to Apple's App Store must have a privacy policy, the news site reports that none of the apps they reviewed make it clear that they record a user's screen. Confirming in an email to the publication, Apple has stated that they notified the developers that are in violation of these strict privacy terms and guidelines and should take immediate action if necessary.

Several iOS apps have triggered an alarm for breaching the privacy of its users, which are secretly recording users' screens without asking for consent or informing of such a practice. These "session replays" are created to help developers work out kinks, make informed UI decisions, and better inform them on how users are interacting with their apps in general.

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In other words, even if an app is trying to record everything it can, it can only record the swipes, taps, and data you enter within that app.

"Glassbox and its customers are not interested in "spying" on consumers", the firm said.

Also, Apple will be checking for screen recording code more often before the developers submit their apps to the App Store, to weed out the privacy-invading code.

Editors' Note: Updated at 7:22 p.m. ET with Apple's warning to app makers.

A day after TechCrunch's report, Apple cracked down on the said apps.

'Glassbox has a unique capability to reconstruct the mobile application view in a visual format, which is another view of analytics, Glassbox SDK can interact with our customers native app only and technically cannot break the boundary of the app, ' the spokesperson said. This is supposed to help developers address user experience issues to improve, but it also gives them a tremendous amount of user data.

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