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7 Feb, 2019 18:45

Popular iPhone apps secretly record users’ screens without permission – report

Popular iPhone apps secretly record users’ screens without permission – report

According to an infuriating new report, several popular applications in Apple’s iPhone app store are secretly recording everything on their user’s screen and often doing it without permission.

After a slew of shocking revelations about how they handle people’s private data the public’s trust in large tech companies is surely close to an all-time low. However, a new report from TechCrunch suggests that the mistrust is well founded and perhaps people should be even more cautious about what they download.

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The investigation alleges that the apps go much further than the data collection and monetization people have come to expect. In fact, secret software allows them to see exactly how someone uses them and they sometimes inadvertently expose sensitive data.

Air Canada, Expedia, Hotels.com, Singapore Airlines and Abercrombie & Fitch are among the companies mentioned in the probe.

READ MORE: 'Chaos’ & ‘desperation’ grip Facebook HQ after Apple blocks developer iPhone apps

The apps embed “session replay” software from a company called Glassbox, which enables developers to record the screen to see how people use the app. This potentially sinister embed means a users every interaction is essentially recorded via screenshots.

The software is supposed to protect the sensitive data in these screenshots, however, a recent investigation by the AppAnalyst discovered that Air Canada's app wasn't always doing so properly.

TechCrunch found that some of the companies sent the screenshots to Glassbox while others sent it to servers in their own domain.

READ MORE: Apple bans Facebook’s data-collecting app, reportedly kicks it off developer program

Apple’s App Store requires apps to have a privacy policy, but none of the apps TechCrunch analyzed make it clear in their policies that they record a user’s screen. While Glassbox doesn’t require any special permission from Apple or from the user, so there’s no way a user would know.

The software is designed to enable companies to figure out why the app malfunctions but, as TechCrunch notes, the fact that it’s hidden from users suggests the app developers realize exactly how invasive it is.

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