iPhone users, beware. It sounds like Facebook could be secretly using your iPhone camera while you scroll through your newsfeed on your phone. This may not be a huge surprise for some users, given that the concept of internet privacy is essentially a myth, but it is a breach of trust, nonetheless. Facebook certainly doesn’t need any more such breaches, given its rocky track record in the area of privacy.
Facebook using your iPhone camera secretly?
Twitter user Joshua Maddux tweeted his discovery that Facebook was using his iPhone camera while he was scrolling through his newsfeed. He included a video which shows that the Camera app was open behind the newsfeed while he scrolled through it. The app was clearly using the rear-facing camera, although there wasn’t anything of particular interest on it at the time Maddux made his discovery.
Found a @facebook #security & #privacy issue. When the app is open it actively uses the camera. I found a bug in the app that lets you see the camera open behind your feed. Note that I had the camera pointed at the carpet. pic.twitter.com/B8b9oE1nblExclusive: Dan Loeb’s Two New Stock Picks [Q1 Letter]
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— Joshua Maddux (@JoshuaMaddux) November 10, 2019
The Next Web was able to reproduce the issue, finding that the camera image can be seen in a sliver on the left side of the screen when users open a photo in Facebook and then swipe down. Maddux also said it looked like Facebook was using the iPhone camera on five different devices all running iOS 13.2.2, although it didn’t seem to happen on iOS 12.
Management is looking into the issue
Facebook’s vice president of “Integrity,” Guy Rosen, responded to Maddux’s original tweet to thank him for flagging the issue. He also said they are looking into it and that it appears to be a bug.
Thanks for flagging this. This sounds like a bug, we are looking into it.
— Guy Rosen (@guyro) November 12, 2019
The Next Web also said it couldn’t reproduce the bug on Android devices, so it appears to be an issue specifically with the iOS version of the Facebook app.
As of right now, the easiest workaround for this issue is to revoke camera access for the Facebook app. The Next Web found that Facebook doesn’t use the iPhone camera in the background like it does otherwise because iOS blocks the app’s attempt to access it.
This issue should serve as a reminder that any app which you have granted permission to access your camera is capable of secretly recording you. It also brings to mind the many times Facebook itself and its subsidiary Instagram have been accused of listening in on conversations. The social networks have repeatedly claimed that they do not listen in, so we expect a similar response to this issue with the camera.