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Facebook bug can secretly turn on your iPhone camera while you browse

Published Nov 12th, 2019 4:00PM EST
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Image: Valentin Wolf/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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As a company beleaguered by a seemingly endless string of scandals and public relations gaffes, the last thing Facebook needs is the discovery of a bug that calls the company’s commitment to privacy into question. And yet, that’s exactly what happened this week.

As it turns out, there’s a pesky bug in Facebook’s iOS app that activates the iPhone camera in the background, all without any overt indication to users. The bug was brought to light by designer Joshua Maddux who discovered that the iOS camera is sometimes called into action while a user is innocently perusing their news feed.

Interestingly, Maddux adds that he’s been able to replicate the bug with 5 different iPhone models all running the most recent iteration of iOS (which is iOS 13.2.2 at the time of writing). Notably, the issue doesn’t appear to arise on iPhones running variants of iOS 12. Here’s a tweet from Maddux about the bug:

As Maddux’s tweet began to pick up steam, The Next Web also managed to replicate the issue while seemingly narrowing down the problem to the recent iOS 13.2.2 update:

The findings are consistent with our own attempts. While iPhones running iOS 13.2.2 indeed show the camera actively working in the background, the issue doesn’t appear to affect iOS 13.1.3. 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.

For what it’s worth, this doesn’t appear to be an issue impacting Android devices.

As mentioned above, the bug in question only rears its ugly head when a user has granted Facebook permission to access the iPhone’s camera. That being the case, you might want to turn off access until the issue gets resolved. If that’s what you’re inclined to do, you can do that by going to Settings > Privacy > Camera.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.