Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Many iOS Apps Found to Record Screen Activity Without Permissions

The home screen on the iPhone XS Enlarge The home screen on the iPhone
Emmett Howard | 10 February, 2019, 21:54

An investigation by TechCrunch has revealed that major companies, like Expedia, Hollister and Hotels.com, were using a third-party analytics tool to record every tap and swipe inside the app. These screenshots are either sent for analysis either to the app developers directly or to Glassbox, who then sends them to the app makers.

Some of the apps such as Stream Labs, a broadcasting service, already have an elaborate process to start screen recording that'll allow users to stream content. Apps like these might therefore only have to make slight modifications to comply. If customers see that the app is recording their activities, they might get cautious or exit the app. The company even mentions the Air Canada deal. When masking of the replay session failed, information such as passport numbers and credit card were exposed. Air Canada employees with the session data could potentially see your private information.

The news shows how widely available Americans' sensitive location data was to bounty hunters. So, not too bad. None of the companies mention recording your screen in their privacy policies, the site noted.

"We write concerned about reports that Facebook is collecting highly-sensitive data on teenagers, including their web browsing, phone use, communications, and locations -all to profile their behavior without adequate disclosure, consent, or oversight".

Abercrombie and Fitch has also responded to the claims, saying that its use of Glassbox "helps support a seamless shopping experience, enabling us to identify and address any issues customers might encounter in their digital experience".

'Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem, ' an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. So really, there's no way to know.

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Apple is cracking down on apps that secretly record your screen activity. Neither did Singapore Airlines. "This information helps companies better understand how consumers are using their services, and where and why they are struggling", a Glassbox spokesperson told Mashable. "On select Expedia Group brands native applications for Android, Glassbox exists from a prior proof of concept in the codebase but it has been disabled for some time and has not been actively capturing information".

This sort of data gathering has been going on for a while now, and Glassbox isn't the only company to offer such a service.

From a user experience perspective, this makes sense.

The software is created to enable companies to figure out why the app malfunctions but, as TechCrunch notes, the fact that it's hidden from users suggests the app developers realize exactly how invasive it is.

"However, in many cases, the app users are not completely blameless - many don't even bother reading apps' terms of usage and blindly grant any permissions requested by the app".

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