Uber's iOS app had the ability to record users' screens, and anything on them, such as passwords or messages, security researchers told Gizmodo on Thursday.
The ride-hailing company has permission from Apple to build that ability into the app, and the researchers said Uber's was the only app on the App Store that appeared to have that permission.
The capability was put in place to make the Uber app work more smoothly with the Apple Watch, said the researchers, Will Strafach and Luca Todesco. Strafach and Todesco said this permission could give Uber access to all the personal information passing across a smartphone screen. What's more, it could make that data vulnerable to hackers if they commandeered Uber's software, though there's no evidence that's happened.
Uber is no stranger to privacy concerns. A string of controversies began with a company executive showing a reporter he'd tracked her location using Uber's software, and it's also included revelations that the company continued tracking users' locations after their rides ended. Uber ended that last practice, and agreed to 20 years of audits from the Federal Trade Commission, after the agency conducted an investigation.
So can your Uber app record your iPhone screen right now? It's unclear when or for how long Uber's iOS app has had this permission. Uber spokeswoman 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.
Ensign said there was a simple reason it had the permission. The capability "allowed Uber maps to render on your iPhone in the background and then be sent to your Apple Watch," she said.
"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." Ensign said. The company doesn't need the permission anymore because of upgrades to Apple Watch and the Uber app.
Apple didn't respond to requests for comment.
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