Facebook might have another security problem on its hands, as some people have reported on Twitter that Facebook’s iOS app appears to be activating the camera in the background of the app without their knowledge. Facebook says it’s looking into what’s happening.
There are a couple ways that this has been found to happen. One person found that the camera UI for Facebook Stories briefly appeared behind a video when they flipped their phone from portrait to landscape. Then, when they flipped it back, the app opened directly to the Stories camera. You can see it in action here (via CNET):
Today, while watching a video on @facebook, I rotated to landscape and could see the Facebook/Instagram Story UI for a split second. When rotating back to portrait, the Story camera/UI opened entirely. A little worrying… pic.twitter.com/7lVHHGedGf
— DFC (@neo_qa) November 2, 2019
It’s also been reported that when you view a photo on the app and just barely drag it down, it’s possible to see an active camera viewfinder on the left side of the screen, as shown in a tweet by web designer Joshua Maddux:
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/B8b9oE1nbl
— Joshua Maddux (@JoshuaMaddux) November 10, 2019
Maddux says he could reproduce the issue across five different iPhones, which were all apparently running iOS 13.2.2, but he reportedly couldn’t reproduce it on iPhones running iOS 12.
Others reported they were able to replicate the issue in replies to Maddux’s tweet. CNET and The Next Web said they were able to see the partial camera viewfinder as well, and The Next Web noted that it was only possible if you’ve explicitly given the Facebook app access to the camera. In my own attempts, I couldn’t reproduce the issue on my iPhone 11 Pro running iOS 13.2.2.
Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of integrity, replied to Maddux this morning to say that the issue he identified “sounds like a bug” and that the company is looking into it.
With the second method, the way the camera viewfinder is just peeking out from the left side of the screen suggests that the issue could be a buggy activation of the feature in the app that lets you swipe from your home feed to get to the camera. (Though I can’t get this to work, either.) I don’t know what might be going on with the first method — and with either, it doesn’t appear that the camera is taking any photos or actively recording anything, based on the footage I’ve seen.
But regardless of what’s going on, unexpectedly seeing a camera viewfinder in an app is never a good thing. People already worry about the myth that Facebook is listening in to our conversations. A hidden camera viewfinder in its app, even if it’s purely accidental, might stoke fears that the company is secretly recording everything we do. Hopefully Facebook fixes the issues soon. And you might want to revoke the Facebook app’s camera access in the meantime, just to be safe.
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