Less than 48 hours after it was reported that some major iPhone apps were using analytics technology to record a user’s iPhone screen without their knowledge, Apple has moved to swiftly shut the practice down. An investigation by TechCrunch found that popular apps like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hotels.com, Air Canada, Hollister, Expedia, and Singapore Airlines were using “session replaying” tools from analytics firm Glassbox to record a user’s screen while they used their app.
There’s nothing to suggest that Glassbox’s tech was being used for nefarious purposes by the app developers or Glassbox itself. Matter of fact, plenty of analytics firms provide similar session replaying tools to developers. The issue stemmed from the fact that the app developers did not make users aware their screens were being recorded.
Now, Apple has given developers using such tools a day to remove the session replaying code from their apps or make users aware that their screens are being recorded while using the app, reports TechCrunch. If the developers do not, Apple will remove their apps from the App Store. As an Apple spokesperson told 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.”
As for Glassbox, the firm released a statement saying no information collected by Glassbox customers is shared with third parties and that it gives app developers the tools to mask sensitive user data in its screen recordings. Glassbox said the intention of its analytics tools was not to spy:
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 websites and apps. This information helps companies better understand how consumers are using their services, and where and why they are struggling.
Apple’s swift action on developers using session replaying tools comes just weeks after the company revoked the enterprise developer certificates of Facebook and Google for using them to distribute apps to consumers outside of the App Store ecosystem that allowed the companies to collect data about how users used their iPhones. That action against two of the App Store’s most prominent developers caused major havoc at both companies.