Some iOS Apps Capturing Screen Data Without Permission (Updated) »

Another big security and privacy article from TechCrunch. This time, Zack Whittaker has written about several iOS apps that are secretly recording the screen without permission:

Apps like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hotels.com and Singapore Airlines also use Glassbox, a customer experience analytics firm, one of a handful of companies that allows developers to embed “session replay” technology into their apps. These session replays let app developers record the screen and play them back to see how its users interacted with the app to figure out if something didn’t work or if there was an error. Every tap, button push and keyboard entry is recorded — effectively screenshotted — and sent back to the app developers.

I’m not sure I quite understand how this is possible on iOS, but in addition to booting these titles from the App Store, Apple should work to close whatever loophole they are using.

Update: A day later, Apple has responded to this:

Apple is telling app developers to remove code that allows them to effectively record how a user interacts with their iPhone apps — or face removal from the company’s app store, TechCrunch can confirm.

In an email, an Apple spokesperson said: “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,” the spokesperson added.

Boom.

Connected #229: The Year of Stephen »

This week on Connected:

Stephen was right, Angela is gone, Myke has a theory and Federico is automating his TV.

We get into Apple Retail, the iOS 12.2 beta and talk about the future of AirPods.

My thanks to our sponsors:

  • ExpressVPN: High-Speed, Secure & Anonymous VPN Service. Get 3 months free with a 1-year package.
  • Hover: Extensions for anything you’re passionate about. Get 10% off any domain name.
  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code CONNECTED at checkout for 10% off.

Angela Ahrendts Leaving Apple »

As I foretold during our yearly Connected predictions,1 there has been a major change to Apple’s leadership webpage: Angela Ahrendts is leaving Apple.

Here’s a bit from Apple PR:

“I want to thank Angela for inspiring and energizing our teams over the past five years,” said Tim Cook. “She has been a positive, transformative force, both for Apple’s stores and the communities they serve. We all wish her the very best as she begins a new chapter.”

“The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career. Through the teams’ collective efforts, Retail has never been stronger or better positioned to make an even greater contribution for Apple,” said Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of Retail. “I feel there is no better time to pass the baton to Deirdre, one of Apple’s strongest executives. I look forward to watching how this amazing team, under her leadership, will continue to change the world one person and one community at a time.”

Ahrendts is in the press fairly regularly for her role at Apple. Just a couple of weeks ago, Vogue Business had a feature about her and her work, which included a massive overhaul of Apple’s stores, and overseeing the company’s 70,000 retail employees.

To pick up the mantle, Apple is turning to Deirdre O’Brien, who has been Apple’s SVP of People for some time. Again, Apple PR:

Apple today announced that Deirdre O’Brien is taking on new responsibilities for Apple’s retail and online stores in an expanded role as senior vice president of Retail + People, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. After five transformative years leading the company’s retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts plans to depart Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits.

In her expanded role, Deirdre will bring her three decades of Apple experience to lead the company’s global retail reach, focused on the connection between the customer and the people and processes that serve them. She will continue to lead the People team, overseeing all People-related functions, including talent development and Apple University, recruiting, employee relations and experience, business partnership, benefits, compensation, and inclusion and diversity.

“At Apple, we believe our soul is our people, and Deirdre understands the qualities and strengths of our team better than anyone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “For more than three decades, she has helped keep Apple focused on serving customers and enriching lives. She’s an exceptional leader and she’s been a vital partner to our retail teams around the world since the very beginning. I am thrilled to work alongside Deirdre in her new role, and I know our 70,000 retail employees will be, too.”

From where I sit, this announcement feels unexpected, and I have a lot of questions about how a single person can oversee Apple’s HR and Retail operations.

Sure, Retail is the company’s largest division, but I am concerned Retail is losing a full seat at the table, so to speak. Not everyone agrees, though, and it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

However surprising this move may seem, part of me is glad to see it. While Apple’s stores are more beautiful than ever, they have become chaotic and overwhelming. Part of that is due to Apple’s growth in the decade since I hung up my Mac Genius t-shirt, but I think a lot of it has to do with the changes Ahrendts and her team put into place. I think Apple has gone too far down the form-over-function route in its Stores. A Genius Bar may have been bulky, but it worked to gather people more effectively than a bunch of uncomfortable backless chairs in the “Genius Grove,” for example.

I’m not saying all of Ahrendts’ changes were bad, or that she ruined Apple Retail. I just think some of the changes made under her leadership seem at odds at what customers want from the Apple Store.

My assumption is that under O’Brien, Apple Retail will stay more or less the same, but I do hope that with new leadership comes a reexamination of what makes Apple Stores great, and what makes them frustrating for so many.

But hey, she has to be better than John Browett, right?


  1. Regrettably, this pick won’t be scored, but I’m pretty sure I should win the whole thing for suggesting something so specific and it coming true so quickly. 

iOS 12.2 Beta 2 Brings AT&T 5G E »

After rolling out the new label on some Android phones, it looks like the iPhone is next in line. Here’s Juli Clover at MacRumors:

Devices in certain areas are displaying a “5G E” icon instead of LTE, but as the “E” suggests, this is not real 5G. No iPhone that exists right now is capable of connecting to a 5G network, nor is AT&T’s network 5G at this time.

The “E” stands for Evolution, a new brand name AT&T is using for some parts of its LTE network. According to AT&T, 5G Evolution reaches a peak theoretical wireless speed of 400Mb/s, which does not match 5G data transfer speeds and is in fact the same as traditional LTE speeds.

AT&T claims that this a step on the road to 5G, but to be clear, it’s just a sticker on top of the same LTE we’ve all been using for a while.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Here’s a bit from a 2012 article on Macworld, written by Lex Friedman:

The 4G label in iOS 5.1 instead reflects AT&T’s perspective, namely that the carrier’s HSPA+ network (also known as Evolved High-Speed Packet Access) qualifies as 4G technology. Carriers tend to refer to both HSPA+ and LTE—the cellular network technology built into the new iPad—as 4G, though the inner workings of the technologies are vastly different.

Thus, because the iPhone 4S on AT&T’s 3G network can achieve what both Apple and the carrier describe as 4G-style speeds, the status bar now shows the 4G label whenever you’re connected to AT&T’s HSPA+ network. Again, though, your iPhone 4S isn’t any faster than it was last week; this label change falls somewhere between semantics and marketing.

Sigh.

Don’t miss Austin Evans’ recent video on this:

Leaving Facebook Can Make You Happier »

Hamza Shaban at The Washington Post, writing about a study that looked at the effects of leaving Facebook:

In the latest study measuring the effects of social media on a person’s life, researchers at New York University and Stanford University found that deactivating Facebook for just four weeks could alter people’s behavior and state of mind. The study found that temporarily quitting Facebook led people to spend more time offline, watching TV and socializing with family and friends; reduced their knowledge of current events and polarization of policy views; and provoked a small but significant improvement in people’s self-reported happiness and satisfaction with their lives.

What’s more, the researchers found that the deactivation freed up on average an hour per day for participants. And the people who took a break from Facebook continued to use the platform less often, even after the experiment ended.

I left the site last year, and while I do feel disconnected from some people I used to only keep tabs on via Facebook, in reality, most of those weren’t real friendships anyway. It’s more work to stay connected without it, but I do feel better without Facebook in my life.

That’s not to say I’ve left it all behind. I do have an active Instagram account that I quite enjoy. Instagram feels like one of the few public places left on the web that hasn’t been completely ruined yet, but I know its days are probably numbered.

Of course, many find Instagram to be depressing. If you follow a bunch of fancy traveling influencers, it make your life seem dull. The trick is not to do that.

Kbase Article of the Week: Liquid Damage to Mac Computers and Accessories Not Covered by Warranty »

This week, we have a fun one:

Current Mac notebook computers and Apple wired and wireless keyboards (except Magic Keyboard) have Liquid Contact Indicators (LCI) to help determine if these products have been exposed to liquid.

Benefits under the manufacturer’s warranty are in addition to rights provided by consumer law. You can learn more at Apple Products and Consumer Law Rights.

MPU #468: Mixing Macs and Microsoft with Christina Warren »

This week on Mac Power Users:

Christina Warren, tech commentator, podcaster and Cloud Developer Advocate at Microsoft drops by to talk about using a Mac at work, the state of PowerPoint and how to get the most out of tech when traveling the world.

Christina is the best, and it was great to hear about what she’s up to these days.

My thanks to our sponsors:

  • Hover: Show the world what you’re passionate about with 10% off your first purchase.
  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code POWER at checkout for 10% off.
  • TextExpander, from Smile: Recall your best words. Instantly, repeatedly. Get 20% off your first year.
  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? You don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Apple Apologizes for FaceTime Bug »

Apple, in a statement to Joe Rossignol at MacRumors:

We have fixed the Group FaceTime security bug on Apple’s servers and we will issue a software update to re-enable the feature for users next week. We thank the Thompson family for reporting the bug. We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this process.

We want to assure our customers that as soon as our engineering team became aware of the details necessary to reproduce the bug, they quickly disabled Group FaceTime and began work on the fix. We are committed to improving the process by which we receive and escalate these reports, in order to get them to the right people as fast as possible. We take the security of our products extremely seriously and we are committed to continuing to earn the trust Apple customers place in us.

Apparently, after the update comes out next week, older versions will be blacklisted from using Group FaceTime. That’s the right call.