If you have a computer with internet, at some point, you have probably taken a screenshot of something online. But have you ever thought if websites knew when you took a screenshot?
A website can know if you take a screenshot of if you use the browser to do it. A website can also know if you take a screenshot using the print screen button on your keyboard. However, if you use a program like the Snipping Tool, the website cannot tell you took one.
To learn when exactly your screenshots or websites are tracked and when they are not read on.
Can Someone Tell If You Screenshot Their Website?
A website can know if you take a screenshot of it. Because any website can track the keys you press using code. So they can trigger an event that records when somebody presses the print screen button on a page of their website.
Netflix and other streaming service websites such as Hulu and others are commonly used websites that block screenshots. For these, this makes a lot of sense as there’s tons of intellectual property on their website that they obviously do not want shared outside of their paying customer base.
Furthermore, if you use a browser screenshot tool, extension, or plugin, those tools themselves need to run code to work. Websites you visit can set up code that detects if somebody is using tools like these while visiting their site. Therefore they can detect if you are using a screenshot tool.
Even if you are using a browser with its own built-in tool, that tool still needs to use code and may be detected by a website.
Using a separate app or program can bypass this as your browser does not regularly have access to your operating system and other programs on it. But even with this workaround, there are exceptions.
If you try to screenshot a website with an image or video in view you may find that even when using a separate program that you get a black screen in the screenshot even though there is a picture or video that is actively playing there.
You’ll know exactly what I mean if you have ever tried to screenshot Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services. Depending on your computer and your browser if you tried taking a screenshot of these websites while watching TV shows or movies you will have seen a screenshot like the one below.
Where even though you were watching a show the screenshot you took only shows a black screen with the captions. That is because websites like Netflix and Hulu use proprietary technology referred to as Digital Rights Management or DRM to block people from screenshotting or recording their websites’ copyright material.
All this proves that websites can indeed detect when you screenshot them and even prevent you. The good news is that many sites don’t do any of this as it is difficult and can still be bypassed.
A quick reminder that you legally are not allowed to screenshot any websites copyright material like Netflix and Hulu even if they don’t use these technologies so make sure you review the website’s policies and terms and conditions before you do so.
How Do Websites Like Netflix & Hulu Detect Screenshots?
Websites like Netflix and Hulu can be using a multitude of different ways you may not be able to even detect to detect screenshots. To understand some of these ways we have to understand a little about how viewing a website and screenshotting it works.
Your computer’s graphics card and processor are what enable it to display visuals like pictures and videos. But this is just the first thing related to visuals in your computer. After the hardware, there is the software like the drivers that run that hardware along with your browser and the specific code the website uses. All of these can be used by a website to detect if you are taking screenshots.
Some specific ways websites have been blocking screenshots have been discovered and include using Digital Rights Management or DRM, encrypted media extension or EME, and CDMs or content decryption modules.
By using a Digital Rights Management or DRM system a website can protect its copyright content from screenshots. Encrypted media extensions or EMEs are the pieces of code you can use on a website to allow it to interact with a content decryption module or CDM.
First, your browser detects the EME code on the page which tells it that the content is encrypted. This starts a process of checks where the website will check for a key using the CDM. You need this key to view the content. The CDM then attempts to acquire a license key basically another check to see if you have access to the content.
Only after getting the okay from the license server can your browser use the CDM to decrypt the content and enable you to view it only through the browser. This is the key part that keeps you from being able to screenshot websites that use this technology.
Because all these checks are run continually and only work through your browser. When you take a screenshot of a website using these protocols the checks are run and the website is able to detect an unlicensed program attempting to capture the display and can therefore deny it from doing so.
How to Avoid Detection When Taking a Screenshot of a Website
To avoid detection you simply need to use an actual app or program on your device to take the screenshot. Desktops are generally easier to work with for avoiding detection than mobile devices.
One program that does this on computers and is safe to use, is one I mentioned above, and it’s the Snipping tool that comes on Windows by default. Snagit is another app that I have used and works and is available on Mac OS as well.
Since you are using these programs outside of your browser only websites using DRM like Netflix will be able to block this. Therefore you should be able to take screenshots of any other website as long as it is legal under their policies.
When it comes to taking screenshots of websites using DRM you are not legally allowed to however people have had success by using different devices, browsers, and apps. Sometimes these sites don’t even have anything blocking using the built-in print screen button on your keyboard.
Can Screenshots of Websites On Mobile Devices Be Detected
Mobile devices are a case-by-case scenario as many of them have different apps and coding that may enable websites to detect if screenshots are being taken regardless of the tool you use to view the websites.
This is why if you have ever tried taking a screenshot of something like a banking app on your phone, you may have found that you were not able to. And even easier and probably more common examples if you ever tried to screenshot Google Chrome while in Incognito mode.
If you try to take a screenshot of a website in Google Chrome while in Incognito mode, it says, “Can’t take screenshot due to security policy.”
Banking apps and other apps enable this behavior to protect their consumers’ and users’ information from being captured. This proves the ability of a mobile app to detect a screenshot being taken.
While individual websites may not have the ability currently, the technical ability in the software is there for it to be possible in the future.
Some older mobile devices may not have this feature, so you can take screenshots of websites without being tracked on them. I am not familiar with any current mobile devices that don’t have that feature by default.
Can Websites Detect Screen Recording?
Similar to screenshots, websites can detect screen recording if done through browsers or tools on browsers like plugins and extensions.
However, if you use a screen recording program like Hypercam that is separate from the browser, websites will not be able to detect them.
Can Browsers Like Chrome & Safari Detect Screenshots?
The most common browsers, like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, and Safari, cannot detect screenshots on their own.
As stated previously, plugins, add-ons, and extensions that have their own terms and conditions and privacy policies may be able to use your browser to keep track of your screenshots of websites.
Other less popular and reputable browsers may be able to detect your screenshots on their own as the technology is there. So it is a matter of doing your research and reviewing their terms and conditions and privacy policies on your own to determine whether they can do this.
Can Websites Block Screenshots?
Websites can block screenshots from being taken using DRM and coding as described previously. By using programs, apps, extensions, plugins, add-ons, and other tools, you may be able to bypass this protection to take screenshots of any website.
Other examples include a banking website or any other website that forces itself to open any links on its website through its own app instead of your browser. But this can be mostly be bypassed in your settings by disabling this forced redirect from browser to app.
Mobile devices specifically can block your screenshots in even more ways than computers can. You may not be able to find a way around these screenshot blocks on your mobile device. At that point, you may be forced to try taking a screenshot using a computer instead.
Again websites can know if you take screenshots of them and some of them have made it illegal for you to do so so make sure you review terms and conditions and privacy policies to avoid breaking the law.