It is never a good sign when a possibly unintended behavior of an app gets highlighted as a potential privacy issue. That is what has happened on Apple iPhones running the latest iOS 14 beta. Users are reporting seeing the green camera in use indicator on the iPhone’s notification bar when the Instagram app is in use and they are casually just scrolling through the feed. This means that Instagram is using the camera even when a user isn’t actively taking photos or posting something on the social network. This is just the latest revelation from Apple’s more advanced tools that identify apps that may getting access to, or requesting for, data that they may otherwise not necessarily need at the time. Instagram though says this is a bug and they promise to fix it.
Apple added the green notification dot to the iOS 14 setup, much in line with how it notifies users when the FaceTime camera is in use on a Mac computing device. Instagram is using the camera to possibly collect information from the FaceTime camera on the iPhone even though a user isn’t trying to take a photo, post a story or record an Instagram Reels post. “We only access your camera when you tell us to—for example, when you swipe from Feed to Camera. 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 said in a statement reported by The Verge. This isn’t the first time a Facebook-owned app is accessing the camera on phones without explicit user permission. Last year, the Facebook app also got caught with a bug that allowed it access to the phone’s camera in the background, without the user’s consent.
Apple has significantly dialed up the privacy notifications in iOS 14, something the beta versions so far as definitely testified to. Earlier, apps including Chinese social media app TikTok, LinkedIn, and Reddit were discovered to be accessing users’ clipboard content, because iOS 14 shares a notification with users when that is happening. Eventually TikTok submitted an app update to the Apple App Store which removed this privacy issue and called it an “anti-spam” feature. Android phones have not received such an update as of now.