Apple just gave an ultimatum to app developers: Quit snooping on our customers or get kicked off the iPhone.
In the latest push in Apple’s widening campaign for digital privacy, the tech giant is cracking down on apps that secretly use screen-recording code in order to track user activity on the iPhone and other Apple gadgets on the mobile iOS platform.
The move comes after TechCrunch reported that mobile apps for companies like Expedia and Hotels.com used an analytics tool to record user activity without asking their permission.
The companies say the tool was designed to help them improve their apps by identifying problem areas that users encounter. But it also captured sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers.
“Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem,” Apple told TechCrunch following the investigation. “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.”
Apps found to be in violation of Apple’s privacy agreement have been given less than 24 hours to eliminate the screen-recording code, lest they be yanked from the App Store altogether.
Last week, Apple temporarily crippled Google and Facebook’s developer privileges after it found the companies in violation of Apple’s rules by collecting large amounts of user data.
The move also comes a day after Apple released a software update to fix an embarrassing iPhone software bug that allowed FaceTime callers to eavesdrop on other users by activating their microphones remotely.
The FaceTime glitch was discovered by 14-year-old Grant Thompson of Tuscon, Ariz., who enlisted his mom’s help to contact the tech giant and inform them of the bug.
Apple said Wednesday that it would compensate the Thompson family and make an additional gift toward 14-year-old Grant’s education.
Apple also formally credited Thompson and Daven Morris from Arlington, Texas, in the release notes to its latest iPhone software update.
Angelo Zino, an analyst at CFRA, told The Post that Apple appears to be getting “a little bit tighter” on privacy on the whole following its embarrassing glitch.
“Clearly the FaceTime eavesdropping bug, I think, got a lot more negative publicity than they wanted to,” Zino said.
He added that Apple is determined to tout the privacy of its platform, and wants to maintain it as a competitive advantage.
“They want to show consumers that they’re willing to go above and beyond and say, ‘Hey, listen, we’re on your side’ while others out there may not be as much so,” he said.
Apple shares were mostly flat Friday afternoon, down 0.1 percent, at $169.99.
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