Are Apps Really Recording Your iPhone’s Screen?

iPhone XS screenHadrian /

TechCrunch claims that many applications for iPhone "secretly record your screen." Is it true? Yes, somehow, but their recording abilities are limited. Apple is now attacking these applications and requires more transparency.

An application can only register your activity in the application

Let's be clear: Apps for iPhone and iPad can not record everything you do on your phone's screen. An application can only record what is happening in the application itself.

In other words, even if an application tries to record everything it can, it can only record the sweeps, tappings, and data that you have entered in this application. The Expedia app was one of the few people chosen here. So, if you use Expedia, the app can save everything you drag, tap and tap in the Expedia app. However, once you have left the application, she can no longer see what you are doing on your home screen or anything you type in another application. Apple's iOS operating system would prevent applications from recording your screen all the time, even if they wanted it.

The only person who can record everything on your screen is you, with the screen recording tool built into the iPhone. Applications can not access this.

Application developers monitor their own applications

Expedia app on iPhone

By erasing this scary title, we can see what is happening: applications from many large companies are monitoring what you are doing in the application itself.

It should not be a huge surprise that this is possible. When you use an app like Air Canada, Hollister or Expedia, this app can monitor everything you type and drag into the application itself. It can monitor the number of seconds you spend watching a particular screen. It can even save text as you type in this application. For example, if you enter a credit card number in the application before changing the notice, delete it and enter a new credit card number, the application can capture this first Credit Card Number. After all, you've typed it in the app, and the app can monitor everything that's going on in the app itself.

None of this solves the bigger problem: companies do it without clearly disclosing it to their customers. But you should know that even if a company claims not to do it in its application, any application can monitor everything that is happening within it and you have no way of knowing it. Apple is now trying to prevent this from happening without your knowledge, which should at least let some app developers pause.

Web sites do it too

This behavior is not limited to iPhone applications. When you visit a website, everything you do on this site can be monitored. This is often the case too.

Web sites can see what you clicked on, how much time you spent viewing an ad, and how much time you spent on different parts of the page. If you type information in a field of the website, a script running on the website may capture the text and send it to its servers, even if you did not press Enter or submit the text.

For example, this is used in online chat support interfaces. Support people at the other end can often see exactly what you typewhen you type it – even before sending the message. This is designed to help speed up the support experience.

As with apps on your iPhone, websites can only see what you do on the site itself. A tracking service can possibly follow you on multiple websites if each of them has chosen to embed the script. But a website that you have opened in a browser tab can not see what you are doing on your online banking website in another browser tab, or even that your online banking website is open.

The real news: applications record your "session"

Glassbox Software PanelGlassbox

The real news here is that application developers control your use of their applications in great detail.

TechCrunch has covered applications that use the "Glassbox"Software application developers can integrate their applications. It uses the "session replay" technology that allows the developer to record and capture everything you do in the application. This includes everything you type, swipe and tap in the application. The developer can "reproduce" your use of the application, which is particularly useful in case of problems. They could also use this data globally to see how users are using the application and the features they use.

As TechCrunch notes, The analyst of applications recently demonstrated that Air Canada did not "mask" session rehearsals properly, revealing credit card details and passport numbers to replayers. Air Canada employees with the session data could potentially see your private information. This is bad, but the threat is limited to the employees of the company with whom you already share data.

Apple will need transparency

Apple logo on the showcaseVytautas Kielaitis /

Applications are not aware of this data collection. The apps do not let you know that they do it in their privacy policies, let alone the app itself! But let's be honest: even if the apps were warning you in their privacy policies, would you notice? Nobody actually reads these.

Apple has taken note and will ask applications to obtain the user's permission before collecting this type of data. "Applications must seek the explicit consent of the user and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging or recording the user's activity. ", said Apple in an email to TechCrunch.

Do apps really record what you are doing?

Some applications record what you do, but only within that specific application. Expedia can record what you do in the Expedia app, for example, but that's it. Even if private data is not properly protected and people can see it, the threat is limited to the employees of the company that created the application.

Apple intervenes and asks developers to remain less secret about this type of monitoring. But applications will continue to monitor many things you can do inside, even if they must first ask for permission. It's more likely that developers simply do not collect as much data. They may not be able to "go back" on your session, but they will probably always know what features you are using.

Heck, by default even Apple's iOS operating system itself collects information about youruse"And send this information to Apple. It's pretty common. The big news here is that applications were secretive and collected more data than normal.


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