Facebook app caught using iPhone’s camera due to a ‘bug’

Facebook iPhone app has been caught accessing the device’s camera ‘secretly’ whenever the app is in use but it happens without your knowledge.

Article updated with a statement from Facebook.

We frequently come across apps unauthorizedly accessing certain features or data of smartphones but mostly these are from SMEs. Sometimes, however, we’re astonished to see multi-billion dollar corporations engage in the same.

For now, take Facebook who has recently been found using the iPhone’s camera through its iOS app while users are browsing its app regardless of whether they are using any camera-related Facebook feature or not.

This was also demonstrated by a Twitter user named Joshua Maddux:

The potential misuse though can only be found in iOS version 13.2.2 with preceding versions unaffected by it as stated by Joshua himself. Furthermore, the camera only works in this way if you’ve allowed Facebook access to it in the past.

However, we tested the bug on iPhone 6S device using iOS 13.0 version and little did we know the “bug” worked:

Here’s another video:


However, the concerning part is that not only Facebook but any other iOS app can do the same as was found by a Google engineer named Felix Krause in 2017. He discovered that apps could access both front and back cameras, upload pictures & videos taken and also run real-time facial recognition which can be used to track someone online as well. Elaborating further, he states how they could “use the front and the back camera to know what your user is doing right now and where the user is located based on image data.”

Currently, there is speculation as to whether Facebook has been doing this intently or if it is a genuine bug. This is partly due to no response yet from Facebook leaving users to guess it out. In either circumstance, this does result in bad PR for Facebook especially when it has already been embroiled in conflicts arising from privacy concerns on how the company utilizes user data.

Moreover, other apps both on Android and iOS have been found spying on users through similar tactics drawing undue attention to Facebook. Hence, it is advised that everyone take some basic security precautions such as restricting camera and microphone access to only a handful of apps leaving little room for misuse in the first place.

Additionally, you could completely cover your camera with tape just like security-conscious users would do with a webcam on a laptop although to be fair, you’ll be missing in on the iPhone’s only improving feature lately.

UPDATE: Nov. 12, 2019, 2:31 p.m. ET Facebook VP of Integrity Guy Rosen has tweeted about the issue and said that it is indeed a bug and a fix will be pushed out to the App Store today.

In a statement to HackRead, Facebook stated that:“We recently discovered that version 244 of the Facebook iOS app would incorrectly launch in landscape mode. In fixing that issue last week in v246 (launched on November 8th) we inadvertently introduced a bug that caused the app to partially navigate to the camera screen adjacent to News Feed when users tapped on photos. 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.” 

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