Facebook was quick to reassure iPhone users this week that it wasn’t secretly spying on them via its app, after someone found the software keeping the phone’s rear camera active in the background.
Facebook user Joshua Maddux discovered the problem on Saturday 9 November when looking at another user’s profile picture on the iPhone version of the Facebook app. He posted a demonstration video and tagged various press outlets with the news:
Others experienced a similar issue:
Facebook app on iOS 13.2.2 opens my phone’s rear camera when I open a profile photo swipe down to return (look at the little slit on the left of the video). Is this an app bug or an iOS bug?? @facebook @AppleSupport pic.twitter.com/WlhSXZulqx— Daryl Lasafin (@dzlasafin) November 10, 2019
Guy Rosen, who lists himself as VP Integrity at Facebook on his Twitter account, acknowledged the issue quickly:
Thanks for flagging this. This sounds like a bug, we are looking into it.— Guy Rosen (@guyro) November 12, 2019
That didn’t nothing to allay the concerns of some Twitter users, who were deeply spooked by the news. Some immediately suggesting (without evidence) deliberate deception on Facebook’s part:
The mic's hot, too. Messenger and insta keep it and the cam live even when the apps are closed. The bug is that you found a way to discover it, not that it happens. They'll patch that, believe it.— thinman (@thinman) November 12, 2019
Others suggested that there were good technical reasons for keeping the camera activated. One suggestion was that the camera framework on the iPhone is slow to launch, so Facebook was speeding up the app by keeping it ready in case the user wanted to post a photo or video.
Facebook told us:
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 8th) 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.
The company posted a bug fix which went live yesterday morning, so iPhone users of the Facebook app can fix it by updating their software.
What’s interesting here isn’t so much the news of a simple camera bug, so much as the distrust and suspicion that it immediately raised among a significant portion of users online. It shows that when it comes to privacy, Facebook’s past mistakes and intentional actions have left many people distrusting the company. That’s a difficult thing to get back.
5 comments on “Facebook fixes iPhone camera bug”
“Facebook’s past mistakes and intentional actions have left many people distrusting the company. ” but they still don’t uninstall the app? bug or not Facebook has proven that its not to be trusted, thats why i left the platform years ago.
Nail on the head Danny!! “Facebook’s past mistakes and intentional actions have left many people distrusting the company. That’s a difficult thing to get back.”
I can’t think of a tech company (still in business) that has a lower credibility for privacy and customer respect. – but google is a close second.
Microsoft circa 2000?
Perhaps its an interesting case study. Its lack of credibility was centred on security rather than privacy (and it took a hammering for the anti-trust case) and in response it made a good faith effort to improve security. On the one hand that effort worked: Microsoft is still here, still successful and the security of its products is vastly improved. On the other hand, it’s obvious from reading Naked Security comments over eight years or so that it has not successfully laundered its reputation.
What amazes me is that, on the one hand, Microsoft has rehabilitated itself remarkably well, and on the other hand, its reputation _still_ suffers
I think the difference with Microsoft back then was that its security problems were seen as errors in process and quality control. So when Gates implemented the code freeze circa 2006, people saw it as a viable attempt to fix the problem. It worked, to a certain extent, but its QA disasters recently have seen its reputation backslide.
The new problem facing big tech companies (particularly Facebook and Google) is that people view their transgressions as intentional. That’s partly because those transgressions support their business models. If someone’s inept, you can roll your eyes and forgive them in the hope that they’ll get better. If they use their resources to deliberately deceive you, most people would find it difficult to continue the relationship in a spirit of mutual trust and respect.
What we often end up with is an abusive relationship. We grumble and complain about untrustworthy tech service providers but ultimately stay put, firstly because they’re free, and secondly because they’re where all the data is, and where all the people are. For many, moving away is just too difficult. It takes real determination to explore the alternatives and to shoulder the inevitable lack of convenience that comes with them.
LinkedIn is also terrible when it comes to privacy. They keep hiding themselves behind procedures as to avoid users.