Research claims some mobile apps are secretly recording your screen


People have been concerned that their phones have been physically watching them and eavesdropping on their conversation for years, and much has changed to stop that from happening.

The "my smartphone is recording everything I say and using it to sell me stuff" conspiracy theory has been doing the rounds for a while now. They noted that while some apps were able to violate a user's policy through rather dishonest means, most were able to send information to third party apps because the Android and iOS systems are "coarse grained" and "incomplete". Seems like not just our conversations, but our phone screens are also being recorded, if a study a group of science academics at Northeastern University in Boston is to be believed. These include the Facebook app and more than 8,000 apps that deliver information to the social network.

The odd practice they started to see was that screenshots and video recordings of what people were doing in apps were being sent to third party domains.

The good news is that the researchers didn't find evidence that any of the apps were hijacking your phone's microphone. The software was set up to monitor files sent by apps, and did not possess the capabilities to create user accounts and passwords - essentially limiting the portions of an app it could test.

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The study had limitations, and so the researchers stopped just short of declaring outright that phones never secretly record anyone. In one case, they found that GoPuff, a junk food delivery app, was sending screen shots and video recordings of user screens to analytics company, AppSee. One app in particular sent quite a bit of information to an analytics company.

A clutch of photo editing apps too have been found to be sending data to their servers or third party sources without them being authorized to do so. Apart from this, this app also recorded the customer's postal code which he submitted for the order. After the researchers contacted GoPuff, the company added disclosure of this policy to its privacy policy, and claimed that it removed the API from its latest builds. In its reporting of the study, Gizmodo emailed Google about its Play Store policies and whether or not withholding the sharing of gathered data is allowable under the current policies.

"We always appreciate the research community's hard work to help improve online privacy and security practices", a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo. They captured postcode data from the smartphone while the users were using their application, and the company had not included such data collection activities in their terms and conditions.

The apps record your screen activities, and the same are being sent to third-party entities and Facebook for your personalized advertisements.