Facebook is working to fix an apparent bug that showed Instagram to be accessing an iPhone’s camera even when it wasn't taking a photo.
Apple’s next major update for the iPhone, iOS 14, is currently available in beta. It includes a new feature where a green dot appears near the battery icon at the top of the iPhone when the camera is in use by an app. The user can then swipe up to bring up the menu to see which app is using the camera.
Several users have reported that after updating their iPhones, their devices showed that Instagram was accessing their camera, even when they weren’t taking a photo or video on the app, as The Verge first reported.
A spokesperson for Apple said the new update shows the “recording indicator” notification “whenever an app is using the mic or camera”.
But Facebook, which owns Instagram, has said it is working to fix the bug, and that just because the users are receiving a notification that the camera is in use doesn’t mean it actually is.
“We only access your camera when you tell us to – for example, when you swipe from Feed to Camera,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “We found and are fixing a bug in iOS 14 Beta that mistakenly indicates that some people are using the camera when they aren’t.
“We do not access your camera in those instances, and no content is recorded.”
Instagram wouldn’t be the first app to be potentially caught out by a new iPhone update. The same iOS 14 update also recently revealed that the likes of TikTok, LinkedIn and Reddit were scrapping the contents of users’ clipboards.
The companies have all promised to stop this practice after it was exposed.
The previous iOS update also revealed that Facebook was using a phone’s Bluetooth in order to gather more data.
It’s a deliberate move from Apple, with the company’s CEO Tim Cook recently raising concerns over the “data industrial complex”.
“Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponised against us with military efficiency,” Cook said at a recent conference.
“Every day billions of dollars change hands and countless decisions are made on the basis of our likes and dislikes, our friends and families, our relationships and conversations, our wishes and fears, our hopes and dreams.
“These threads of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesised, traded and sold. Taken to its extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself.
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance. And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them. This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”
Instagram was also hit by several privacy breaches last year. It was revealed in May last year that the private details of up to 49 million users of the social media platform, including their phone numbers and email addresses, were publicly available on a database hosted by Amazon Web Services without the need for a password.
Just weeks ago, another privacy flaw was discovered on Instagram, with a security researcher discovering that the private contact details of thousands of users were easily accessible in the website’s source code, with the issue soon patched.