You may have seen this Techcrunch article a few days ago on analytics frameworks that collect screen recordings as well regular event and usage data.

I'm generally not against analytics being collected in apps. The data can be really useful and I believe the vast majority of what gets collected does nothing to hurt end users. As developers, we can build better apps that are based on real data because of aggregated analytics.

But let me be clear, recording the screen of your users and allowing it to be watched goes way too far. I don't care if you hide a line in your privacy policy about it happening. I don't care if you "ask users to opt-in". I don't care if the screen recording masks passwords and other sensitive data. I don't care. That's way over the line in my opinion.

I've never talked about this before, but the only relevant sponsor who I've ever turned down for iOS Dev Weekly was a company focused on in-app screen recording analytics. It was a few years ago now and I had no idea this was even a thing at the time. I just couldn't believe that they were doing it and they were incredulous that I had a problem with it. It made me really angry. Looking at the client list on their site was shocking too. Your screen is almost certainly being recorded by some of the apps on your phone. I didn't want to support that, and I didn't take their money.

The irony is that in a past job I had, the company I worked for used one of these screen recording analytics tools and I was asked to look at the results as part of my job. I protested and made a case they they should remove it from their app, but I failed and as far as I know they continue to do it. The irony? To my annoyance, the data collected from that tool was incredibly useful, and I found at least one really hard to reproduce bug because I could watch it happen for a user. Even so, I never felt comfortable with it and was happy to put it behind me.

I originally wrote this comment yesterday and ended it with a call to action for anyone using this kind of technology. I called for you to remove it from your apps, if you were able to. Or for you to lobby for it to be removed, if you were not. However, last night Apple made a statement on the subject:

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.

That's a fascinating statement. I'm incredibly happy to see the rules being tightened for screen recording, but does it also mean apps need to visually indicate when more traditional analytics data is also being collected? I hope it doesn't.

If apps start to show (for example) a red dot in the corner of the screen because they are talking to Google Analytics, I think most people are going to be comfortable with that. Once people are comfortable with it, they'll start to ignore it. Now, if that same app implements screen recording analytics and indicates it with the same red dot. They are perfectly following this new rule, but I think most people would not be OK with that. How do people know the difference? The statement as it stands has problems.

I'd actually love to get your opinions on all of this. If you've got 30 seconds I have just a couple of multiple choice questions for you. I'll report the results back here.

Dave Verwer  





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