Screen Recording on Apple iOS 11: Safety Features and Security Concerns

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Apple recently unveiled its newly updated operating system - iOS11 - for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The operating system offers a variety of new tools that will impact the lives of survivors of domestic violence. This two-part blog series will feature two of the new tools -  a screen recording feature and an Emergency SOS calling feature. In today’s blog, we will focus on the new screen recording tool.

As with most technologies, the iOS11 updates have potential to both help survivors, and to be misused by abusers. The screen record feature in iOS11 is a perfect example of a technology that has a mix of safety potential and privacy concerns.

While screen recording is new to iOS11, it isn’t actually a new feature for smartphones. Many devices that use Android operating systems have had the ability to record what’s happening on the screen for some time. Similarly, Apple users were able to record what was happening on the phone with a workaround that included plugging the phone into a computer. But while screen recording isn’t new, Apple has simplified the process, which means that survivors can now more easily record video of abusive behavior, like harassing text messages or threats made over video calls. (For more information on how to document abuse, check out our Documentation Tips resource.) Unfortunately, it also means it’s now easier for abusive people to make recordings that they can use maliciously as a tactic of abuse.

One major concern is that the new screen record button will allow individuals to secretly record Snaps sent using Snapchat. One of the primary selling points of sending a Snap is that it automatically disappears after a person sees it. Previously, the only way for someone who receives a Snap to keep a copy of it was to take a screenshot. To protect against privacy concerns related to screenshots, Snapchat created a feature that informs the sender if a screenshot was taken of their Snap. But the new screen record button is able to record Snaps without alerting the sender.

While this may help survivors of domestic violence document abusive Snaps, it can also be misused by an abusive person, particularly because many people use Snapchat to discuss sexual topics and share intimate images. If these images can be secretly captured, it’s more likely that an abusive person can keep them without the victim’s knowledge and later use the recordings to threaten, blackmail, or otherwise harm the sender.

IMPORTANT: Snapchat is attempting to fix the issue in its latest software update, but the screen record button will still be able to secretly record Snaps if the sender has not installed the latest version of Snapchat.  

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO STAY SAFE?

  • If you use Snapchat, make sure you have the latest update installed.
  • If you use an Apple device, learn how to use the screen record button after you install iOS11.
  • Learn more about documenting abusive behavior and talk to a local advocate if you think you’re experiencing abusive behavior (you can find services near you by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline).
  • If you’re trying to use the screen record button to record a Snap in order to document abusive behavior by the other person, just know that it’s possible that the other person may know you made a recording. We recommend being careful before recording abusive Snaps because it is possible that the abusive person could be made aware that you have recorded the abusive behavior, which may place you in danger.
  • Recording another person (in person, on the phone, or on a video call) is illegal in some states if you do not receive permission. If you do decide to use the recording feature to record another person, it is important that you comply with your state’s recording laws. Check here to learn about your state’s recording laws.

Also – always remember that it’s never ok for someone to take pictures or videos of you without your consent, coerce you to take and send images or videos, or keep images or videos you send in private when you have an expectation that they have been deleted. If you are concerned that somebody has inappropriately taken or retained pictures or videos of you, please contact us at safetynet@nnedv.org or reach out to the Cyberviolence Civil Rights Initiative.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2016-TA-AX-K069 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

 

What’s the Deal with Snap Map?

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Snapchat recently released a new feature called Snap Map. It was immediately met with a flurry of negative feedback and concerns for user privacy and safety. As with any technology, device, platform, or service, new features can have an unexpected impact on user safety and privacy. The following is our assessment of potential privacy issues and possibilities for misuse within Snap Map.

The Snap Map feature allows users to share their location with other friends on Snapchat and to share Snaps on a map. The ability for others to see your location can definitely sound a little creepy, particularly if you’re concerned about your privacy. While there are a few things to consider and be aware of to protect your privacy, there are also a few features that make us a little less worried about Snap Map.

1.     The user controls the feature, and therefore controls their privacy.
Snap Map is an opt-in feature, not an opt-out feature; meaning it is off by default until a user chooses to turn it on. Opt-in by default is an important safety feature, but it is noteworthy that a person with access to the account could still turn on location sharing without the account owner’s knowledge. Because of this, it’s important that users know how to find the location sharing setting so that they can check to see if someone has turned it on without their permission.

2.     Users also control the audience, even if the feature is on.
If you choose to use Snap Map, you can keep it in Ghost Mode. Ghost Mode means that your location isn’t shared with anyone at all, but that you are able to see yourself on the map. You can also choose between sharing your location with all of your friends, or with just a few select friends. Ghost Mode is the default setting when you have opted into using the Snap Map feature, that way you don’t share your location with anyone unless you choose to, even if you open the feature to check it out. If you decide to no longer share your location, even with a few selected friends, you last location is removed from the map.

3.     Submitted Snaps don’t show username, but images can still be identifying.
You can submit a Snap to “Our Story” to be shared on the Snap Map, although not all submitted Snaps are accepted to be on the Snap Map. Ones that are accepted do not show the username of the person who submitted it, but it will show up on the Snap Map at or near your location. Certain information in the Snap could make it more identifying (signs or landmarks can identify exact location, and clothing or tattoos can identify a person, even if their face isn’t shown). Also, users should be aware that Snaps submitted to “Our Story” may show on Snap Map regardless of their chosen location setting. This is important to consider, especially if other people are in your Snaps and you don’t have their permission to share.

4.     Notifications for the win!
We are always fans of user notifications when there is a feature that could be a potential safety and privacy risk. Snapchat will send reminders if location sharing has been left on for a period of time; making sure that users know their location is being shared. These notifications can also greatly decrease the chance that someone could turn on someone else’s Snap Map without their knowledge.

5.     When you’re sharing, you’re always sharing.
It’s really important to understand that once you opt-in and choose an audience to share your location with, that audience will continually be able to see your updated location every time you open the app, whether or not you are engaging with them or sending anyone a Snap. This might be the biggest concern, since if people don’t clearly understand this they may inadvertently share their location without realizing it.

Overall, Snap Map definitely makes it easier for people to share—and to receive—information about another person’s location. As with similar features on other platforms, users should be cautious and make informed, thoughtful decisions on how to protect their privacy; including if, when, and how they use it. It’s also really important to consider the privacy of others. You might not know what could be a safety or privacy risk for each of your friends, so you should never share images, videos, or location information about others without their consent. The good news is that this feature does have some built-in privacy options and gives users control over what is shared. Learn more about manage your location settings in Snap Map and check out SnapChat’s Approach to Privacy