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Apple gave Zoom access to a private API to use the iPad camera in multitasking

Apple gave Zoom a preferential treatment on its platform by allowing the videoconferencing software to access private APIs letting the iPad camera be used during Split View multitasking.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Zoom for iPad has access to Apple’s undocumented APIs.
  • This lets Zoom access the camera in Split View.
  • No other app aside from FaceTime can do this.

A photograph showing an aerial view oof the Apple Park headquarters

Zoom has access to Apple’s private APIs

Apple gave Zoom access to a private API to use the iPad camera in multitasking

The discovery was made by developer Jeremy Provost who has found evidence that Zoom for iPad accesses Apple’s private APIs. This, according to a post on Provost’s personal blog, permits Zoom to be used along with another app in side-by-side Split View multitasking.

This is very handy when, for instance, you need to reference something on Twitter or browse a website in Safari while being engaged in a Zoom video call. “Preferential treatment” is definitely the right phrase to describe Apple’s policy here because the only other piece of software that can use the camera during Split View multitasking is FaceTime, made by Apple itself.

This capability is enabled by means of an entitlement. In order to access certain OS features, app developers enable public entitlements, like iCloud access or push notifications. But for quite some time there have also existed private entitlements. One example is the ability for an app to integrate with CarPlay.

Further information about entitlements is available on the Apple Developer website.

Apple provides public documentation for developers to apply for entitlements related to accessing CarPlay, HomeKit and similar platform features. Provost points to a February 2021 post on the Zoom Developer Forum which reveals that the entitlement for iPad Camera Multitasking is called com.apple.developer.avfoundation.multitasking-camera-access.

Unlike with CarPlay, however, there is no public process for requesting this entitlement.

Preferential treatment for special developers

According to Provost, “its existence is not even documented by Apple publicly. Go ahead and Google it, you’ll only turn up the Zoom Developer Forum,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Apple has given major apps special access to undocumented features. During the Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit, for instance, one of the slides revealed Apple had offered Netflix custom APIs to modify Apple subscriptions, handle free trials and extend auto-renew dates. Apple also gave Hulu access to APIs unavailable to other developers.

→ How to use Animoji and stickers during FaceTime video calls

That being said, however, the revelation that Zoom has been permitted to use Apple’s private API for iPad camera access comes at an inopportune time for the Cupertino giant, which is embroiled in a legal spat with Epic over the terms of doing business on the App Store.

Founded in 2011 by former Cisco engineer and executive Eric Yuan, and launched in 2013, Zoom has become the de-facto default videoconferencing platform in the age of working from home and the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because Zoom is a frictionless, cross-platform solution that works across a range of devices, allowing people to engage in interactive multi-party video calls without worrying about compatibility.

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