Screen Recording Permissions: Commonly Asked Questions

Why does ActivTrak need the Screen Recording permission?

Note: ActivTrak will never record your screen unless you explicitly use the screenshot actions in the alarms.

With macOS 10.15 Apple has introduced a new Screen Recording permission. According to the name, one would assume that this permission only covers screen recording. Unfortunately, that's not the case. It also protects an API that is used in ActivTrak and to access other app's window titles.

What happens if I don't grant the screen recording permissions?

For the most part, ActivTrak will still work properly. Only a few applications will not be able to use window snapping. Other actions like screenshotting and moving windows between spaces will break.

Why does ActivTrak / need access to other app's window titles?

To track and pull the appropriate data as well as move your windows around. ActivTrak needs to first figure out which window to move. This might seem like a simple task, and that's true for most apps. However, in various cases, it's not as easy as it seems. For example, application windows might have transparent overlays or other invisible parts which in some situations can be hard to identify. In such cases, ActivTrak uses the window titles of these problematic apps to identify whether it is moving the correct window. This has worked quite well during the last 10 years and allowed ActivTrak to work with almost all applications.

Is there any Apple documentation that confirms what you are saying?

Yes. You can watch the video from this year's WWDC: https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2019/701/. There is a large part about screen recording, which also talks about window titles now also being protected by this permission.

How did it work before Catalina?

Before macOS Catalina, there were no such permissions. Any app could access the window title of any other app - and any app could record your screen.

Are there other ways to access the window titles?

Yes, ActivTrak could also use the Accessibility API to access other app's window titles. However, this doesn't work in some specific situations and is less performant.

Can I enable/disable the permission later?

Yes, you can always choose to disable/enable the permission via System Preferences => Security & Privacy => Privacy => Screen Recording.

Is there any indication of whether an application is currently recording my screen?

Unfortunately no. Applications that get the Screen Recording permission can record your screen at any time without any indication.

Why did Apple protect window titles with this permission?

We are currently unsure. We will continue to watch and see how the macOS evolves and adjust accordingly to ensure the agent runs properly on Apple machines.

 

 

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