System bug gives Facebook access to iPhone cameras

A bug in the latest version of iOS opens iPhone cameras as users peruse their Facebook feeds, letting the social media giant access the cameras.

“We have seen no evidence of photos or videos being uploaded due to this bug,” a spokesman told the Guardian, confirming that glitch would let the Facebook app “navigate to the camera screen adjacent to News Feed when users tapped on photos.”

The company had planned to submit a patch for the issue to Apple yesterday.

Fueled by the appearance of “coincidentally timed” tailored ads on their feeds, users have long opined that Facebook is listening in on their conversations or reading the content they post online, something the company repeatedly has denied. News of the bug likely will ignite those rumors.

“Our smartphone apps have immense insight and access into our personal lives,” said Richard Gold, head of security engineering at Digital Shadows, noting “the public is rightly concerned that the appropriate measures are being taken by companies to protect” privacy and data.

Bugs such as these erode the already fragile trust between companies and the public, even though their origin might be completely innocuous,” said Gold.

But Gold and others called the glitch inadvertent and benign. “It’s a bit creepy that Facebook enables the camera on an iPhone, however, there is no evidence of any photos or video being uploaded to the cloud,” said Chris Morales, head of security analytics at Vectra. “That means this is mostly a harmless bug that allows Facebook to use the camera but it is not a compromise or breach of personal data/privacy. The easiest thing to do is for users to disable the use of the camera in the iPhone app settings.”

Noting the “bug seems like a fairly regular kind of bug which unfortunately slipped through QA testing,” Gold said, “due to Facebook’s position in the market and general public sensitivity towards privacy, it is clear that any bug that even hints of a loss of privacy is taken very seriously by the public.”

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