Facebook’s iOS app appears to be activating the camera in the background of the app in some situations without a user’s knowledge. However, Facebook tells The Verge that it’s submitting a fix to address these issues to Apple today.
There are a couple ways that this has been found to happen. One person found that the camera UI for Facebook Stories briefly appeared behind a video when they flipped their phone from portrait to landscape. Then, when they flipped it back, the app opened directly to the Stories camera. You can see it in action here (via CNET):
Today, while watching a video on @facebook, I rotated to landscape and could see the Facebook/Instagram Story UI for a split second. When rotating back to portrait, the Story camera/UI opened entirely. A little worrying... pic.twitter.com/7lVHHGedGf— DFC (@neo_qa) November 2, 2019
It was also reported that when you view a photo on the app and just barely drag it down, it’s possible to see an active camera viewfinder on the left side of the screen, as shown in a tweet by web designer Joshua Maddux:
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
Maddux says he could reproduce the issue across five different iPhones, which were all apparently running iOS 13.2.2, but he reportedly couldn’t reproduce it on iPhones running iOS 12.
Facebook, in a statement sent to The Verge after this article was originally published, says that this second issue is due to a bug that was inadvertently introduced in an app update released on November 8th and that it’s submitting a fix to Apple today. The company also tells us that “we have seen no evidence of photos or videos being uploaded due to this bug.” Additionally, the company tells The Verge that the first issue identified in this article will be addressed by the fix submitted to Apple today as well.
Even though it seems like these issues will be fixed, the fact that users could unexpectedly see the camera viewfinder in the app at all isn’t a good thing. People already worry about the myth that Facebook is listening in to our conversations. A hidden camera viewfinder in its app, even if it was purely accidental, might stoke fears that the company is secretly recording everything we do. And as you wait for a potential fix to roll out, you might want to revoke the Facebook app’s camera access, just to be safe.
Update November 12th, 6:31PM ET: Updated with additional information from Facebook about the issue found on November 2nd.