Craig Federighi says third-party app mic usage whilst muted 'not necessarily' a concern

How to use widgets on your iPhone Home screen
How to use widgets on your iPhone Home screen (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

What you need to know

  • iOS 14 can reveal when apps use your camera or microphone.
  • Some third-party apps still show mic usage even when muted.
  • Apple's Craig Federighi says this isn't necessarily an issue, but that developers should update their apps anyway.

Craig Federighi has told one concerned iOS 14 user that third-party apps using the mic on iPhone whilst muted is "not necessarily" a concern, but that developers should update their apps.

Twitter user Zaheen Hafzer M M shared an email conversation they'd had with Craig Federighi, in which the former raised concerns about iOS 14 third-party mic usage.

If you didn't know, iOS 14 shows users when apps are using their microphone or camera by displaying a green or orange top in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Hafzer noticed that the microphone indicator remained on even if users mute the microphone in some third-party apps. Likely examples include muting your mic whilst making a call on Skype or Facebook Messenger.

Craig Federighi says that this means that the third-party app still has access to your phone's audio stream, but that "it may not be recording or transmitting".

When asked if users should be concerned about this he replied:

"Maybe, but not necessarily. In the past it was not uncommon for apps to simply leave their 'audio session' in place, and just ignore the audio flowing to them when the app-level mute button is active. Going forward, such apps should probably update their code to shut down their audio sessions to (so?) that users can be confident that the app does not have access to the audio."

It seems Apple is fairly happy with this functionality, whereby even if you mute your mic whilst using a third-party app, the app can still technically hear what you're saying. Apple's iOS 14 feature is about making users aware of camera and mic usage, rather than preventing it. It remains to be seen if Apple will issue some kind of formal guidance to developers with respect to this issue.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9