Facebook App Secretly Turns on Phone’s Camera

Facebook App Secretly Turns on Phone’s Camera

Last edited: November 29, 2019
Reading time: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

Do you own an iPhone and have you given the Facebook App access to your camera?  If so, beware! Facebook could secretly be using your camera while you’re scrolling through your feed.

The Secret Camera Use Issue Described

Facebook app’s secret camera use was discovered by a user who then reported it on Twitter. The user, Joshua Maddux, accidentally made this discovery thanks to a bug in the Facebook App that lets you see the camera opened behind the Facebook feed.

Other people on Twitter then tested to see if they could replicate Joshua’s findings. The bug can be replicated by opening a video in full screen and then returning back to normal screen. In returning to normal screen, Facebook’s app shifts the iPhone’s layout slightly to the right.  This leaves an open space on the left of the screen. Through this space, the phone’s camera can be seen activated in the background

The bug can only be replicated on iPhones running the latest version of the Facebook app, which is designed for iOS 13. Furthermore, the issue only occurs if the Facebook app has been given access to the camera. If not, the app appears to try and access the camera, but the iOS blocks it.

The bug cannot be replicated on Android devices. However, this does not mean that the camera does not open in the background on these devices. It just means that the bug that reveals this secret camera use doesn’t work on Android devices.

Facebook’s Response

Facebook has acknowledged the issue stating that it is just a bug with the app. Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity, stated in a tweet a couple of days ago:

“We recently discovered our iOS app incorrectly launched in landscape. In fixing that last week in v246 we inadvertently introduced a bug where the app partially navigates to the camera screen when a photo is tapped. We have no evidence of photos/videos uploaded due to this.”

Since then, Facebook has submitted a fix to the App Store and is waiting for it to be approved.

Is Facebook’s Camera Use Really Just a Bug?

Thanks to Facebook’s atrocious track record with privacy and abusing trust, users are understandably skeptical. They are wondering whether Facebook app’s secret camera use is intentional and it was, unfortunately for Facebook, discovered due to a bug. Users tweeted:

“Yeah, sounds like a bug to me. You know, the kind of bug that conveniently turns on someone’s iPhone camera so you can monitor them? Yeah, that bug.”

“Then what is the “bug”? – is it the user can see the camera is activated .. or is the “feature” that the camera IS activated?”

The discovery of this secret camera use is just another in a string of unwanted privacy issues facing Facebook. Who can forget the Cambridge Analytical scandal, which saw Facebook pay £500,000 to the UK and $5 billion to the US for failing to protect people’s data? In the past, Facebook has also been under fire for giving its applications access to smartphones’ microphones and analyzing Messenger voice calls. The former supposedly helped software make recommendations based on the music being listened to or the TV being watched and the latter to improve transcriptions.

Solution

The best solution to counter such threats is to delete the Facebook app from your phone and just access it from a browser. This gives the company far less access to your data than accessing Facebook through an app on your phone. Of course you could also delete your Facebook account all together. If not, you should at the least revoke the Facebook app’s camera access, just to be on the safe side.

More tips on how you can safeguard your privacy on an iPhone can be found in the article Take Charge of Your Privacy Settings on an iPhone or iPad.

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