iPhone users of Facebook, beware! A recently discovered bug in the iOS operating system allows Facebook to activate your camera whenever the app is open.
A user named Joshua Maddux first alerted Facebook about the issue on Twitter:
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
The culprit seems to be the iOS 13.2.2 operating system: Maddux related that in his tests on five different devices, the issue did not surface on devices operating under iOS 12. Another site related that the issue was also not present with devices using iOS 13.1.3 operating systems.
What Facebook has to say
Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity, simply responded to Maddux saying, “Thanks for flagging this. This sounds like a bug, we are looking into it.”
A Facebook spokesperson told Forbes that the bug was the unintended result of a fix for a previous camera issue for the Facebook app:
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 8) 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
What should I do to protect myself?
Security experts recommend at least revoking Facebook’s camera access on your app until the issue is resolved – or even better, deleting the app completely if you’d like to be 100 percent safe from unwanted camera activation.
John Opdenakker, an ethical hacker, remarks:
This proves that you shouldn’t give access to your camera, unless that’s one of the core functionalities and thus the reason you installed the app in the first place.
Given Facebook’s track record of uncomfortable encroachments on user privacy, the bug doesn’t bode well for the tech giant. At the same time, Facebook has been surprisingly resilient in the face of all of its privacy scandals. If history is any example, it seems likely that users may complain loudly but still continue to use the app.