Music-recognizing app Shazam retains access to the Mac's microphone, keeping it in a constant on state, even when Shazam has been turned off. The potentially worrisome feature was discovered by security researcher Patrick Wardle, who developed an app called "OverSight" to warn users of when other apps are using their webcam and microphone. After its launch, one OverSight user contacted Wardle and told him Shazam kept listening even after it was toggled off in settings.

Wardle, who's also an ex-NSA hacker, reverse-engineered Shazam's Mac app and posted his findings in a personal blog. What he discovered was that the app essentially keeps the Mac's microphone on to create a snappier user experience when song detection is required, but Wardle doesn't believe there's "any malice" to the company's desktop and laptop app.

shazam-mac-app-1
In a statement sent to Motherboard, Shazam's vice president of global communications, James Pearson, confirmed that the app keeps the microphone on but "the audio is not processed unless the user actively turns the app 'ON.'" In essence, Shazam for the Mac is constantly accessing the computer's microphone, but only gaining access to audio and processing user data when turned on.

“There is no privacy issue since the audio is not processed unless the user actively turns the app ‘ON.’” James Pearson, the VP of global communications for Shazam, said in an emailed statement. ”If the mic wasn’t left on, it would take the app longer to both initialize the mic and then start buffering audio, and this is more likely to result in a poor user experience where users ‘miss out’ on a song they were trying to identify.”

As Wardle summed it up on his blog:

In other words what 'OFF' appears to mean, is simply, "stop processing the recorded data" ...not cease recording.

Pearson refuted the idea that the always-on microphone was a bug, reiterating that the lack of audio processing in Shazam's off state was always the company's intended purpose for that mode, saying that "the user's decision not to leverage our app's functionality is fully respected" because of it. Since the report has become more widespread, Shazam's Chief Product Officer Fabio Santini confirmed to CNET that the company will be updating the Mac app within the next few days to change how the app works, in order "to show that we care, and we pay attention, and we want them to feel good about using Shazam on their Mac."

Despite Wardle's confirmation that Shazam appears to be largely truthful, with no recorded audio being sent, saved, or processed by the company when the app is turned off, he remained wary of Shazam's failure to disclose exactly how much access it has to the Mac's microphone before his discovery. This is mostly due to the fact that, although Shazam's intentions appear wholesome, another party could design malware that resides within the app and steals its toggled-off recordings, without the user ever being warned.

Again, though it appears that Shazam is always recording even when the user has toggled it 'OFF' I saw no indication that this recorded data is ever processed (nor saved, exfiltrated, etc). However, I still don't like an app that appears to be constantly pulling audio off my computers internal mic. As such, I'm uninstalling Shazam as quickly as possible!

On iOS, users have a bit more insight into Shazam's background functionality thanks to Apple's hard-to-miss red banner that sticks to the top of the screen when an iPhone's microphone is on in another app. Wardle's main problem appears to be a lack of a similar warning for users on the Mac side of things, saying that "users should know" what has access to their computer's input devices and when.

Check out his full breakdown of the Shazam Mac app here.

Update: Shazam's Vice President for global communications James Pearson contacted MacRumors to emphasize that Shazam has not actually recorded audio using the Mac's microphone using this behavior.

Contrary to recent rumors, Shazam doesn’t record anything. Shazam accesses the microphone on devices for the exclusive purpose of obtaining a small fingerprint of a subset of the soundwaves, which are then used exclusively to find a match in Shazam’s database and then deleted.

Tag: Shazam

Top Rated Comments

Sasparilla Avatar
77 months ago
I want the Oversight app for my Mac now though.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hfvienna Avatar
77 months ago
Shazam was pretty good in the beginning and went worse from that time on . As Mac Fly already said : It takes very long to load whatever crap , and you cant do what you would really like to do = listen and detect which song is playing right now. Until Shazam has loaded all the crap usually the song on TV or Radio is over already.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mac Fly (film) Avatar
77 months ago
Shazam is junk. You literally use it to name a only name a song and it includes 900 features no one but Shazam themselves care about. Whatever about Dropbox being a feature and not a company Shazam certainly should be. It's the antithesis, the worst of technology for me. Do said feature and do it well, don't try to have fake useless paid subscriptions and 50 tabs. Do deals with the likes of Apple and be invisible and do great work and be the best at what you do.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dontwalkhand Avatar
77 months ago
So it drains your battery instead of loading slower. Sounds great!! Not!
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
miknos Avatar
77 months ago
All those apps that listen in the background can be exploited in the future.

Shazam for iOS improved considerably. Now you open the app and you see ONLY the button to find the tune. They removed all that useless crap. Worth a check if you uninstalled the app recently.

Or you can simply ask Siri and go to iTunes app to check history to see the songs Siri recognised.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iphone 14 pro max vs 13 max 2

Camera Comparison: iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:44 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce some major improvements in camera technology, adding a 48-megapixel lens and low-light improvements across all lenses with the new Photonic Engine. We've spent the last week working on an in-depth comparison that pits the new iPhone 14 Pro Max against the prior-generation iPhone 13 Pro Max to see just how much better the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be. Subscrib ...
tony blevins car

Apple Procurement VP Departs Company After Vulgar TikTok Comment

Thursday September 29, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
Tony Blevins, Apple's vice president of procurement, is set to depart the company after he made a crude comment about his profession in a recent TikTok video, reports Bloomberg. Blevins was in a video by TikTok creator Daniel Mac, who was doing a series on the jobs of people he spotted with expensive cars. After seeing Blevins in an expensive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Mac asked Blevins what ...
Dark Sky App Featured

Dark Sky Removed From iOS App Store Ahead of Upcoming Shutdown

Wednesday September 28, 2022 4:27 pm PDT by
The Dark Sky weather app that's owned by Apple is no longer available for download in the U.S. App Store, suggesting that it has been removed ahead of schedule. Apple acquired Dark Sky back in March 2020 and has since incorporated elements of the app into the Weather app available on the iPhone (and soon, the iPad). Dark Sky remained available for purchase as a standalone weather app...
adaptive transparency airpods pro

iOS 16.1 Beta Brings Adaptive Transparency to Original AirPods Pro

Thursday September 29, 2022 1:08 pm PDT by
The third beta of iOS 16.1 that was released earlier this week expands the Adaptive Transparency feature introduced with the second-generation AirPods Pro to the original AirPods Pro. As noted on Reddit, first-generation AirPods Pro owners who also have the AirPods beta software will now see an "Adaptive Transparency" toggle in the AirPods section of the Settings app. The 5A304A beta...
tim cook malala

Tim Cook: Not Too Long From Now, You'll Wonder How You Led Your Life Without AR

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:26 am PDT by
Speaking at Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II in Naples, Italy, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that not too long from today, people will wonder how they led a life without augmented reality, stressing the "profound" impact it will have on the not so distant future. At the university, Cook was awarded an Honorary Degree in Innovation and International Management and also sat down for a...
iPhone 15 to Switch From Lightning to USB C in 2023 feature sans arrow

Kuo: iPhone 14 Pro Max Popularity Could Lead to More Differentiation Between iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Wednesday September 28, 2022 10:22 am PDT by
Apple has seen high demand for the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, which could lead the company to further differentiate the next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple could add exclusive features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max in an effort to encourage more people to purchase the larger and more expensive device. Kuo last week said that Apple asked...
iOS 16 Wallpaper Spectrum Feature

Five Wallpaper Apps to Check Out for iOS 16's New Lock Screen Depth Effect

Thursday September 29, 2022 9:08 am PDT by
One of the biggest new features in iOS 16 is a completely redesigned iPhone Lock Screen. The new Lock Screen is entirely customizable, letting you change the colors and fonts, add widgets and new wallpapers, and more to make your iPhone uniquely yours. Of course, even before iOS 16, you could customize your Lock Screen with a wallpaper of your choice. iOS 16 takes the Lock Screen wallpaper...
apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...
mx mechanical keyboard logitech

Logitech Launches New 'Designed for Mac' Mice and Keyboards

Wednesday September 28, 2022 12:01 am PDT by
Logitech today announced the launch of several new mice and keyboards that have been developed for use with Apple's Macs, including Logitech's first mechanical keyboard that has been optimized for the Mac. The MX Mechanical Mini for Mac Keyboard has a keyboard layout designed for Macs, with tools to customize shortcuts with Logi Options+. The keyboard uses Tactile Quiet low-profile switches...
iphone 14 iphone 14 plus in hand feature

iPhone 14 Is Secretly Hiding a Beloved Mac Feature

Friday September 30, 2022 3:24 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models bring over a longstanding Mac feature, but the setting to enable it is off by default. The feature, which is actually a new accessibility option, allows the iPhone to play a startup chime like the Mac. When enabled, the sound comes alongside a new shutdown chime. The Mac has featured a startup chime since 1987's Macintosh II, and the iconic "bong"...