Can you believe that the widely popular ride-hailing app UBER can record anything on your iPhone screen secretly? Yes, security researcher Will Strafach recently revealed that Apple selectively grants Uber a powerful ability to use the newly introduced screen-recording API with intent to improve the performance of the Uber app on Apple Watch.
What’s more concerning is that the permission (what’s known as an “entitlement”) would enable Uber to record the iPhone screen without your knowledge even when the app was closed, giving Uber access to all the personal information (such as passwords or messages) passing through your device screen. The company’s access to such permission could make this data vulnerable to hackers if they, somehow, able to hijack Uber’s software, though there’s no evidence that’s happened.
The capability was put in place to make the Uber app work more smoothly with the Apple Watch, said the researchers. “Apple gave us this permission because early versions of Apple Watch were unable to adequately handle the level of map rendering in the Uber app,” Uber spokeswoman Melanie Ensign said. However, the company doesn’t need the permission anymore because of upgrades to Apple Watch and the Uber app.
Although it’s unclear when or for how long Uber’s iOS app has had this permission, Melanie Ensign said Uber hasn’t used the software that relied on that permission for “quite some time” and that the company is working with Apple to remove the capacity altogether.
And what’s more? Uber is the only third-party app to be given this access to the feature by Apple. Will Strafach said he could not find any other app on the Apple’s App Store that has the permissions that the Uber app has. “Considering Uber’s past privacy issues I am very curious how they convinced Apple to allow this,” he said.
As we all know, Uber is no stranger to privacy concerns. A string of controversies began with revelations that the company continued tracking users’ locations after their rides ended. The company has earlier developed multiple internal tools to assist with monitoring the likes of regulators and drivers. Uber was also in controversies at the mid of last year for monitoring the battery life of its users, as the company believed that its users were more likely to pay a much higher price to hire a cab when their phone’s battery is close to dying.
Apple has not yet responded on this issue.