In an email exchange with a user, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi says that apps that continue to use the iPhone’s mic while its muted isn’t “necessarily” an area for concern, but that apps should update their code. Craig says in the email:
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 that users can be confident that the app does not have access to the audio.
In specific Craig is referencing a new privacy feature in iOS 14 that shows a small yellow dot in the status bar when an app has access to the iPhones microphone. For some apps, the yellow dots still appears even when the app is closed out, about that Craig says that “audio sessions” may still be in place, but the app will ignore whatever the audio is.
Craig’s response is interesting given that it seems the new privacy indicators in iOS 14 are more for reference for users than it is a wake-up call for apps not to listen in when they aren’t supposed to. Craig advises that developers should update their code to ensure that the audio sessions get shut down and that no audio is being transmitted.