Facebook hasn’t had a great track record when it comes to user privacy, and thanks to an issue discovered in the social network’s iOS app, that track record is about to get worse.
A Facebook user by the name of Joshua Maddux revealed that the company’s iOS app runs the camera in the background. It appears to happen while scrolling through your news feed, and Maddux discovered the behaviour and shared a recording of it online. In the recording, you can see the camera working in the background.
The feed appears as a tiny sliver on the left side of the screen and appears after opening a photo and swiping down. The `Next Web was able to replicate the behaviour as well. It’s worth noting that the bug only appears to be present on iPhones running iOS 13.2.2. Phones with iOS 13.1.3 don’t have the issue — I was able to confirm this on my iPhone XS — and iOS 12 also doesn’t have the issue. The issue isn’t present on Android, according to TNW, which tested it on a Pixel 4 with Android 10.
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
It’s also worth noting that Facebook can’t access the camera unless a user grants permission to the app. Without the camera permission, iOS blocks Facebook’s ability to access the camera.
At the moment, it isn’t clear if this is expected behaviour or a bug. My money is on a bug, considering the camera runs in the background on some iOS versions on and not on other versions. However, that doesn’t excuse the issue, nor does it make Facebook’s ability to run the camera in the background any less concerning. Coupled with past Facebook privacy issues, such as Cambridge Analytica, this bug is even worse.
For now, iOS users should block Facebook’s access to the camera. To do so, open the Settings app on iOS and scroll down through the apps to Facebook. Tap it, and under the ‘Allow Facebook to access’ section, toggle off ‘Camera.’ For good measure while there, turn off the microphone permission as well.