Some Popular iPhone Apps Secretly Record Your Screen for Analytics Purposes

Multiple popular iPhone apps from major companies are using intrusive analytics services that capture detailed data like taps, swipes, and even screen recordings without customer knowledge, reports TechCrunch.

Apps that include Abercrombie & Fitch, Hotels.com, Air Canada, Hollister, Expedia, and Singapore Airlines are using Glassbox, a customer experience analytics firm that lets developers use "session replay" screen recording technology within their apps.

appsanalyticsscreenrecording
Session replays let developers screenshot or record or a user's screen and then play back those recordings to see how users interact with their apps. Taps, button pushes, and keyboard entries are all captured and provided to app developers.

Some apps, such as Air Canada, don't properly mask data that's recorded, exposing information like passport numbers and credit card information. Air Canada employees with access to the screenshot database can readily see this data.

TechCrunch had mobile app expert The App Analyst look at some of the apps that Glassbox lists as a customer. Not all apps leaked masked data, and most appeared to be obfuscated, but there were instances where email addresses and postal codes were visible.

"Since this data is often sent back to Glassbox servers I wouldn't be shocked if they have already had instances of them capturing sensitive banking information and passwords," The App Analyst told TechCrunch.

As TechCrunch points out, all of the apps have a privacy policy, but not one makes it clear that they're recording a user's screen. Glassbox does not require special permission from either Apple or the user to record the screen, and without checking specific app data, there is no way to know if an app is doing this.

Glassbox also does not require its customers to mention the usage of the screen recording feature in their privacy policies.

"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, such as when the system keyboard covers part of the native app/ "Glassbox does not have access to it," the spokesperson said.

There are other analytics companies that have practices similar to Glassbox, like Appsee and UXCam, and there are a lot of major companies that are using this kind of technology, based on their customer lists. This kind of tracking is also not limited to iOS apps -- it can be done on the web as well.

With no way to detect that this is going on, all customers can do is refuse to use the apps and services of companies that are found to be engaging in shady analytics tracking purposes without clear privacy policies.

Top Rated Comments

Klae17 Avatar
48 months ago
Apple do your thing! This is a violation of privacy. These app developers need to learn a lesson.
Score: 88 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple_Robert Avatar
48 months ago
Looks like Apple needs to tighten the app noose a little more. The App and MAS store is supposed to be a sandbox for many important reasons and privacy is paramount.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
brendu Avatar
48 months ago
This is partially why I use as few apps as possible. I’ll go on a website on my desktop with proper blockers in place if I need to. My phone is a minimal use device these days.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
az431 Avatar
48 months ago
People wanted free apps. Well this is what you get when you use free apps. Massive invasions of privacy for the purpose of mining and monetizing your personal information.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Heineken Avatar
48 months ago
There’s no App Store guideline that prohibits collecting usage information. To the contrary, Apple permits collection of usage information if the user consents.

Consent is generally satisfied by providing a terms of service link and consent is basically continuing to use the app after being afforded the opportunity to review the terms.
This is a load of ********. We all know it. Nowhere does it say we will monitor your ****ing keystrokes and ****.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Heineken Avatar
48 months ago
If apple doesn’t remove these from the App Store and hit the kills witch on the ones the are on users phones I will be very disappointed.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

USB C Over Lightning Feature

EU Passes Law to Switch iPhone to USB-C by End of 2024

Tuesday October 4, 2022 3:30 am PDT by
The European Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favor of enforcing USB-C as a common charging port across a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPhone and AirPods, by the end of 2024. The proposal, known as a directive, forces all consumer electronics manufacturers who sell their products in Europe to ensure that a wide range of devices feature a USB-C port. This...
ipad pro purple

Five Apple Products You Should Avoid Buying Right Now

Wednesday October 5, 2022 2:12 pm PDT by
Rumors suggest that Apple still has several new devices that are coming before the end of the year, including a range of Macs and iPads. It's not looking like we're going to get an October event in 2022, but refreshes are coming soon, probably via press release. If you're planning to buy a Mac or an iPad, make sure to check out our list to know what's safe to pick up now and what's not. iPad ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

10 New iOS 16 Features Coming Later This Year

Monday October 3, 2022 2:41 pm PDT by
iOS 16 was released to the public three weeks ago with a customizable Lock Screen, the ability to edit iMessages, improvements to Focus modes, and much more. And in the coming months, iPhone and iPad users have even more new features to look forward to. We've rounded up 10 new features coming to the iPhone and iPad later this year, according to Apple. Many of the features are part of iOS...
magsafe charger orange

Apple Releases New MagSafe Charger Firmware

Tuesday October 4, 2022 12:09 pm PDT by
Apple today released updated firmware for the MagSafe Charger that is designed to work with the iPhone 12 and later and the AirPods Pro 2. The new firmware is version 10M1821, up from the prior 10M229 firmware. Note that in the Settings app, you'll see a different version number than the firmware number, with the update displayed as version 255.0.0.0 (the prior firmware was 247.0.0.0). The...
maxresdefault

Video: AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort II

Monday October 3, 2022 12:50 pm PDT by
Apple on September 23 officially launched the second-generation version of the AirPods Pro, introducing updated Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive Transparency, improved sound, and more. Right around the same time, Bose introduced new QuietComfort II earbuds with many similar features, so we thought we'd compare the two to see which has the edge. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

One of iOS 16's Best Features Drains Battery When Enabled

Thursday October 6, 2022 2:15 am PDT by
One of iOS 16's most praised features comes at the cost of draining battery life, according to recently published Apple support documents. The feature, known as "keyboard haptics," is optional in iOS 16 and allows users to get physical feedback via slight vibrations upon the touch of each key, confirming that it was pressed much like keyboard sounds. The feature is a useful addition to the...
aapl logo banner

No October Apple Event Expected Despite Upcoming Wave of New Devices

Wednesday October 5, 2022 2:33 am PDT by
Apple is no longer expected to host an event this month, despite plans to unveil a host of new devices including new iPad and Mac models, according to recent reports. In recent months, Apple has been expected to hold an event in October to announce a range of products that did not receive any stage time during the company's iPhone 14 unveiling event last month. In a recent newsletter, Bloombe...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.0.3 With More Bug Fixes Following iPhone 14 Launch

Monday October 3, 2022 7:53 am PDT by
iOS 16.0.2 was released last month with several bug fixes for iPhone 14 issues, excessive copy and paste permission prompts, and more. Now, evidence suggests that Apple is planning to release iOS 16.0.3 with additional bug fixes. Evidence of an upcoming iOS 16.0.3 software update has shown up in MacRumors analytics logs, which have been a reliable indicator in the past. There are several...
iOS 16

Apple Seeds New Betas of iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Tuesday October 4, 2022 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the fourth beta of iOS 16.1 to developers for testing purposes, with the beta coming one week after the release of the third iOS 16.1 beta. The iOS 16.1 beta is also joined by the fifth beta of iPadOS 16.1, which is on a slightly different schedule as Apple started testing it prior to the launch of iOS 16. Registered developers can download the iOS 16‌ and iPadOS 16...
dynamic island outline 1

iOS 16.1 Beta Adds More Pronounced Gray Border Around Dynamic Island When Using Black Wallpapers or in Dark Mode

Tuesday October 4, 2022 11:58 am PDT by
With the latest iOS 16.1 beta, Apple has tweaked the design of the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max to make it more visible on a dark background. When using a darker wallpaper or with the darker interface of Dark Mode activated, there is a light gray border around the outside of the Dynamic Island when the screen is dimmed or when the Dynamic Island is in active use. The...