Apple gave Uber explicit permission to record iPhone screens, says researcher

Gwen Vasquez
October 7, 2017

Although it seems that Uber has cleared up all the confusion about the discovered Apple permission granted to their app, it still leaves us wondering what other app developers have these special entitlements that allow them to see our iPhone screens.

Uber stated the entitlement was only used in the 8.2 version of the Uber app and remains dormant in the newer versions since the newer versions of the Apple Watch can process the maps on their own.

The controversial feature adds to the ever-growing list of scandals and problems of the ride-hailing company, but the twist to this one is that Apple itself granted the ability to the iOS app of Uber.

"We are working with Apple to remove it completely as soon as possible", said a spokesperson for Uber.

Entitlement is a piece of code which app developers can use to interact with certain Apple systems like the camera or Apple Pay on iPhones and iPads.

In the meantime, if users of the Uber app on iOS remain concerned about their privacy until the update is made available, the best course of action would be to uninstall the app from their devices. "It's not connected to anything in our current codebase", Uber's spokesperson explained.

Although the entitlement isn't intended for this, the worry is that Uber - or a hacker who managed to break into Uber's network - could silently monitor activity on an iPhone user's screen, harvesting passwords and other personal information.

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"It looks like no other third-party developer has been able to get Apple to grant them a private sensitive entitlement of this nature", Strafach said.

"Essentially it gives you full control over the framebuffer, which contains the colors of each pixel of your screen", security researcher Luca Todesco told tech news website Gizmodo. "It can potentially steal passwords etc".

Uber told Business Insider the code was not now being used and was essentially a vestige from an earlier version of its Apple Watch app, but it set off alarm bells among experts. "This dependency was removed with previous improvements to Apple's OS & our app".

It's not the first time Uber has made headlines for alleged surveillance infringements.

In 2014, an Uber executive in NY was investigated for tracking a BuzzFeed News reporter with a "God View" without her permission.

"Apple gave us this permission years because Apple Watch couldn't handle our maps rendering".

The startup screen of Uber, vehicle transportation mobile app developed by the American technology company Uber Technologies Inc, pictured on the display of an iphone 6s plus, on 31 August 2017 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

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