iPhone privacy: We accessed your phone's camera but it was a 'bug', says Facebook

Facebook says it has submitted a fix for an iOS app bug that opened the iPhone camera in the background.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Facebook's iOS app has been opening the iPhone's camera in the background when users look at the Facebook feed. But it was an accident, not a feature, says Facebook. 

The company has responded to concerns raised by Facebook user Joshua Maddux, who posted a video of the Facebook app on his iPhone, showing that the phone camera is active in the background when users view their Facebook feed.  

Maddux tested five iPhones all running iOS 13.2.2, the latest version of iOS, and confirmed the camera glitch affected all the iPhones on this version. It didn't appear to affect devices running iOS 12. 

Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of Integrity, responded to Maddux, stating that it "sounds like a bug" and that the company was looking into the issue. 

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iOS 13.2.2 was released on October 28, and since then multiple other users have reported the same background camera issue when using the Facebook app. 

As per ZDNet sister site CNET, Facebook submitted a fix to the App Store on Tuesday. Rosen also offered an explanation of what was happening to the camera when using the Facebook app.   

"We recently discovered our iOS app incorrectly launched in landscape," Rosen said. "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."      

The bug also appears to only affect iPhone users who granted the Facebook app access to the device's camera. Until Facebook's iOS app update is approved and released, users can prevent the background camera activity by revoking the app's access to the camera.

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Accident or not, reactions to Maddux's tweet reflect how cynical people are towards Facebook, which has created its own trust problems over the past few years.

The most notable of these problems was its clumsy handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and more recently over CEO Mark Zuckerberg's statements defending its acceptance of political ads and opposition to the idea of blocking political ads containing false statements.     

If Facebook users want to revoke the app's access to the iPhone camera, they should open the Settings app, go to Facebook settings, tap Photos and then set access to Never.

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