You might not be exciting enough to be on a government watchlist, but Big Tech companies have allegedly taken a great interest in users’ private lives. Facebook may have been watching users through their cameras while they scroll through their newsfeeds.
A web design firm owner named Joshua Maddux claimed in a tweet that he,
“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.”
In the footage, his camera appears to be operating outside of his control in the background of his Facebook newsfeed.
“The problem becomes evident due to a bug that shows the camera feed in a tiny sliver on the left side of your screen, when you open a photo in the app and swipe down,” noted The Next Web (TNW) in its piece titled “Facebook is secretly using your Iphone’s camera as you scroll your feed.” “TNW has since been able to independently reproduce the issue.”
Maddux wrote in a tweet, “I have been able to confirm this across 5 different iPhones all running 13.2.2. I will note that iPhones running iOS 12 don't show the camera (not to say that it's not being used).”
“Phones running iOS 13.2.2 indeed show the the camera actively working in the background,” reported TNW. “We further noticed the issue only occurs if you have given the Facebook app access to your camera. If not, it appears the Facebook app tries to access it, but iOS blocks the attempt.”
This is not the first time this issue has come up though. The shocking findings of Google engineer Felix Krause were described in The Next Web article titled “Googler proves any iPhone app with camera permission can secretly record you,” and several suggested recommendations for privacy were mentioned. Users can either “equip your camera with covers” or “revoke camera access for all apps – but not without sacrificing some app functionality in the meanwhile.”
When reached for comment by CNN Business, a Facebook spokesman reportedly claimed, "We have seen no evidence of photos or videos being uploaded due to this bug. We're submitting the fix for this to Apple today.”
As if mimicking The Next Web’s prediction that Facebook would say “Muh, duh, guh, it’s a bug. We sorry,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity, commented in a tweet that “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,” he added further that “We have no evidence of photos/videos uploaded due to this.”
The issue of Big Tech spying is not solely tied to Apple, Facebook or smartphones, however. The new generation of high tech gadgets and smart service apps, whether from Google or Amazon, have a problematic history of privacy vulnerabilities.