Apple Forces Developers to Remove Screen Recording Code From iOS Apps [Update]

Yesterday, TechCrunch discovered that multiple popular iPhone apps from major companies are using intrusive analytics services that capture data ranging from taps and swipes to full screen recordings, all without customers knowing about it.

appsanalyticsscreenrecording
Today, Apple has informed app developers that this kind of screen recording analytics code needs to be clearly disclosed to customers or removed from iOS apps. From an Apple spokesperson's email to TechCrunch:

"Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem. Our App Store Review Guidelines require that apps request explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging, or otherwise making a record of user activity."

"We have notified the developers that are in violation of these strict privacy terms and guidelines, and will take immediate action if necessary," the spokesperson added.

At least one developer has already been told to remove the code that recorded app activities. From an email to the developer:

"Your app uses analytics software to collect and send user or device data to a third party without the user's consent. Apps must request explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging, or otherwise making a record of user activity."

Apple is serious about getting rid of this code and gave the developer in question less than a day to remove it and resubmit the app before it would be pulled from the App Store.

High-profile apps like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hotels.com, Air Canada, Hollister, Expedia, and Singapore Airlines are using Glassbox, a customer experience analytics firm with a "session replay" screen recording feature.

Session replays are designed to 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.

None of the apps above disclosed that they were recording a user's screen in their privacy policies, which is apparently in violation of Apple's ‌App Store‌ rules.

Apple also requires apps that record the screen to have a little red icon on the top left corner of the phone to make it clear that the screen is being recorded, and it sounds like Apple is going to enforce this rule for this kind of analytics tracking.

Most likely, apps will need to remove this feature because customers are not going to willingly use an app that's recording everything that they're doing and displaying a persistent red icon while the app is open.

There are many other analytics companies that have similar practices like Appsee and UXCam, so there are undoubtedly many more apps that are using these secret screen recording features without customer knowledge.

Update: Glassbox, the company that many apps use for screen recording analytics capabilities, provided the following statement to MacRumors on the issue:

"TechCrunch's piece raised valid concerns. Yet we believe it is partial and doesn't adequately convey the many benefits for our customers and their users; or reflect the security and privacy capabilities inherent in Glassbox.

Glassbox and its customers are not interested in "spying" on consumers. Our goals are to improve online customer experiences and to protect consumers from a compliance perspective. Since its inception, Glassbox has helped organizations improve millions of customer experiences by providing tools that record and analyze user activity on web sites and apps. This information helps companies better understand how consumers are using their services, and where and why they are struggling.

We are strong supporters of user privacy and security. Glassbox provides its customers with the tools to mask every element of personal data. We firmly believe that our customers should have clear policies in place so that consumers are aware that their data is being recorded -- just as contact centers inform users that their calls are being recorded.

Furthermore: No data collected by Glassbox customers is shared with third parties, nor enriched through other external sources.
Glassbox meets the highest security and data privacy standards and regulations (e.g. SOC2, GDPR), and all data captured via our solution is highly secured and encrypted.

We provide our customers with the ability to mask every piece of data entered by a consumer, restrict access to authorized users, and maintain a full audit log of every user accessing the system.

We don't simply record data and provide customers with session replay. Brands come to us because Glassbox means source-proof, tamper-proof, encrypted records of digital activity. These characteristics make Glassbox invaluable, not to 'spy' on customers, but to (a) aid in creating the best and easiest digital journey, and (b) protect both brands and customers with evidential truth that allows for safe and compliant digital experiences."

Top Rated Comments

Apple_Robert Avatar
43 months ago
For some here, no matter what Apple does or doesn't do, it just isn't good enough. There sure are a lot of armchair CEO's etc. who seem to have an immediate answer and split-second reaction and fix time for everything that hits Apple. Many of you should put your keyboards to action and apply to Apple. I bet your tune changes to a different song.

I am glad Apple took action.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
oneMadRssn Avatar
43 months ago
More importantly, how did Apple miss this in their review? Why is it lately incumbent on journalists to police this kind of stuff?
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmaier Avatar
43 months ago
Now let's see what google does
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jpn Avatar
43 months ago
apple is being unusually responsive lately to the general user community.
who within apple directed this change?
how can we keep this going?
was this simply caused by the Xs and even Xr failure to incorrectly read markets' pricing limits?
or, is this more caused by apple's sensing that it alone has an even greater marketing advantage vs. competitors if it continues to try to do as much as possible to preserve users' privacy?
anyway, its wonderful, and am glad apple took action.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nouveau_redneck Avatar
43 months ago
One day notice. Perfect.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
omihek Avatar
43 months ago
"We have notified the developers that are in violation of these strict privacy terms and guidelines, and will take immediate action if necessary," the spokesperson added.
Immediate action is necessary! Pull the apps right now and don't let them back in until they are following the guidelines.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

Unbox Therapy Shares Hands-On Look at iPhone 14 Pro Max Replica

Monday May 16, 2022 4:40 am PDT by
YouTuber Unbox Therapy has shared a hands-on look at the iPhone 14 Pro Max using what he claims is a one-to-one replica created by third-party case makers with access to detailed schematics and dimensions for Apple's new upcoming flagship smartphone. As with the iPhone 13 Pro lineup, in 2022, we are expecting a 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro and a 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, but this time the Pro...
macOS Monterey 2

Apple Releases macOS Monterey 12.4 With Support for Studio Display Webcam Update

Monday May 16, 2022 10:10 am PDT by
Apple today released macOS Monterey 12.4, the fourth major update to the macOS Monterey operating system that launched in October 2021. macOS Monterey 12.4 comes over two months after the launch of macOS Monterey 12.3, an update that added Universal Control. The ‌‌‌‌‌macOS Monterey‌‌ 12.4 update can be downloaded on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System...
iOS 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 With Wallet and Podcast Updates

Monday May 16, 2022 10:00 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5, the fifth major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were initially released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.5 come a little over two months after the launch of iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4. The iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in...
iOS 16 mock for article

Gurman: iOS 16 to Include New Ways of System Interaction and 'Fresh Apple Apps'

Sunday May 15, 2022 6:14 am PDT by
iOS 16 will include new ways of interacting with the system and some "fresh Apple apps," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has said, offering some more detail on what Apple has in store for the upcoming release of iOS and iPadOS set to be announced in a few weeks at WWDC. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman wrote that while iOS 16 is not likely to introduce a major face-lift to...
Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
Whatsapp Feature

WhatsApp to Let Users Leave Group Chats 'Silently' and View Rich Link Previews in Status Updates

Tuesday May 17, 2022 3:07 am PDT by
WhatsApp is working on a new feature that will allow users to "silently" leave group chats hosted by the messaging platform instead of all members of the group being notified when they do. As it stands, when someone leaves a group chat, WhatsApp announces their exit to the entire group, making the act of leaving very public. It's not possible right now to leave a group quietly, but WhatsApp...
apple tv 4k design green

Apple Releases tvOS 15.5 for Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K

Monday May 16, 2022 9:57 am PDT by
Apple today released tvOS 15.5, the fifth major update to the tvOS operating system that first launched in September 2021. tvOS 15.5 comes more than two months after the release of tvOS 15.4, an update that brought support for captive WiFi networks. tvOS 15.5 can be downloaded over the air on the Apple TV through the Settings app by going to System > Software Update. ‌‌‌‌‌‌Apple...