People have long suspected the Facebook app of ignoring permissions and spying on its users. Now, it would seem, a website designer has caught Facebook in the act.
Joshua Maddox discovered the issue when transitioning between different Pages within the app. As Mr. Maddox tapped on a profile picture and then slid it down the screen, the camera could be seen plainly active in the background.
Mr. Maddox shared a video of his experience on Twitter, an experience that has been reproduced by other users.
“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.”
Mr. Maddox said he has confirmed the behavior on five different iPhones, all running 13.2.2. Notably, iPhones running iOS 12 did not display the behavior although, as Mr. Maddox points out, that doesn’t mean the app is not accessing the camera on older version of iOS. He also pointed out a legitimate concern about the degree to which the app is accessing cameras.
“It’s how @facebook accesses your camera and microphone… This is proof that they are accessing your back camera. They may also be accessing the front camera. If they process that through a facial recognition they could see your actual reaction to posts.”
Facebook VP Guy Rosen responded with a tweet of his own, downplaying the issue as an innocent bug.
“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.”
Whatever the cause or reason behind this issue, it comes from a company that has long since used up any goodwill it has on the privacy front. No matter how many assurances it provides, it’s safe to say that many users will view this as an unacceptable violation of their privacy.