Apple moves quickly and wields a big stick. Well, at least when it’s pushed.
On Thursday, the company confirmed to TechCrunch that it has instructed makers of smartphone apps that are capable of surreptitiously recording a user’s screen activity to either remove that feature from their code or properly disclose to users that their actions may be recorded.
If they don’t, the apps risk being booted from the App Store. This follows on the news that a selection of popular apps, including those for Expedia and Hotels.com, can record what you do on your phone without your knowledge.
As you might imagine, such screen recordings not only have the potential to capture personal data users might not be inclined to share with a hotel app, but also could record information like passwords or credit card numbers.
In other words, they’re a privacy nightmare.
“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,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We have notified the developers that are in violation of these strict privacy terms and guidelines, and will take immediate action if necessary.”
This is good news for the privacy inclined, but does raise the question of why it took TechCrunch reporting on this practice for Apple to act. We reached out to Apple to ask that very question, but did not receive a response as of press time.
The screen-recording tech in question was provided by an analytics company called Glassbox. As Mashable has previously noted, the company’s Twitter bio provides the following pitch to potential customers: “Imagine if your website or mobile app could see exactly what your customers do in real time, and why they did it? This is Glassbox.”
We are now seeing in real time how Apple responds to an embarrassing privacy scandal playing out on its iOS ecosystem — no screen recording required.