Apple has warned developers that they should not be recording user interactions with the iPhone without disclosing the behavior. The move is only the most recent case in which Apple was forced to step in to safeguard user privacy. Apple isn't fooling around on this one; Offending apps face ejection from the App Store.
Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported that a handful of major companies were putting a third-party app to use in order to record all the taps and swipes inside an app. Some of the companies include Expedia, Hollister, and Hotels.com.
Soon thereafter, Apple began to email developers whose apps included analytics code that could be used to record the screen. This issue isn't so much that the apps were recording the screen, but that the developers didn't first ask the user for permission or otherwise alert them to the possibility of being recorded. Sensitive data that may appear on app screens is supposed to be masked, but passport and credit card numbers may have been leaked.
"Your app uses analytics software to collect and send user or device data to a third party without the user’s consent," said Apple in an email obtained by TechCrunch. "Apps must request explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging, or otherwise making a record of user activity."
Apple demanded the developer remove the offending code within 24 hours lest the app become delisted. It later made sure all developers knew to strip out the code.
"Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem," said the company in a statement provided to TechCrunch. "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."
Apple took similar action earlier this year when it came to light that Facebook was paying teenagers to use a research app that collected all their data.
Apple CEO Tim Cook feels strongly about privacy. “Consumers shouldn't have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives," wrote Cook in a piece for Time Magazine. Cook called for new privacy laws to govern corporate behavior.