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Android 14's screenshot detection system is getting adopted by more apps

App developers no longer need any hacky workarounds to detect screenshots, though users may not always be a fan.

Published onNovember 28, 2023

  • Android 14 introduced a new screenshot detection API that would let app developers easily detect when a user has taken a screenshot without building hacky workarounds.
  • Apps have begun using the API, and now they can detect when you have taken a screenshot using standard screenshot methods.
  • The app does not know the contents of the screen, though.

Apps like Snapchat popularized the idea of ephemeral messaging, with messages disappearing after being read by the other party. However, the idea would have fallen flat if users could save screenshots of conversations and media without any repercussions. In response, Snapchat implemented a screenshot detection method that notifies users when a screenshot of the messages and media they sent has been taken. Google formally implemented a screenshot detection system within Android, too, with Android 14, and apps using the API have finally been spotted.

As per a report by AndroidPolice, German shopping app OTTO has adopted Android 14’s screenshot detection APIs. When a user takes a screenshot within this app, the app is notified of the action, and a toast message is displayed that the app has detected the screenshot. Developers can then build actions once the screenshot has been detected.

The OTTO app uses the official Android 14 API for screenshot detection. Google describes the API as follows:

To create a more-standardized experience for detecting screenshots, Android 14 introduces a privacy-preserving screenshot detection API. This API lets apps register callbacks on a per-activity basis. These callbacks are invoked, and the user is notified, when the user takes a screenshot while that activity is visible.

Google also notes a few details about the API. For one, the app is informed of the screenshot action but not the actual contents on the screen. Google leaves that responsibility on the app to determine what was on the screen when the user took a screenshot.

The developer can also decide what to do next. For instance, messaging apps would want to inform the user on the other end that a screenshot was taken.

Further, the API can only detect a screenshot when it is taken using the hardware button combo or other standard methods. The API cannot detect screenshots taken through ADB, and presumably through root screenshot apps and a screenshot of the Recents task switcher screen.

If an app developer wants to be stricter about screenshots, other older APIs allow apps to block the ability to take screenshots completely. We’ve seen banking and video streaming apps implement this to block users from taking screenshots.

The official Android API for screenshot detection will be a boon for app developers as they will no longer have to create workaround implementations as Snapchat did. Users may not like this change, so I’d advise exercising common sense when taking screenshots of conversations and other sensitive content. If the other party would have reason to be upset if you have taken a screenshot, consider not taking the screenshot in the first place.

Would you like more apps to use Android 14's screenshot detection API?

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