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Camera indicator panics users into believing Instagram is spying on them through their iPhones

An iOS 14 indicator implied that the app was using the camera without user's knowledge

Adam Smith
Tuesday 28 July 2020 09:29 BST
(Credit: DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)

A bug in Instagram’s code led users to believe that the app was turning on users’ smartphone cameras while they were just scrolling through the feed.

Users noticed an indicator after they downloaded the iOS 14 Beta, the upcoming operating system for Apple's iPhones, which alerts users when apps are using certain private data such as their location or camera.

A green FaceTime symbol appears at the top of the Control Panel – accessible when swiping down from the top right corner on the newest iPhones – when the camera is activated.

Many people believed Instagram had been engaging in nefarious activities, and that the camera was secretly being used to spy on users.

However, Instagram has clarified that the issue was due to an error, rather than the company spying on users.

Instagram said that the reason for the indicator was due to Instagram’s “Create Mode” – allowing users to share posts that do not contain photos or videos by swiping left from the home feed or through the Instagram camera.

Swiping into that mode could activate the notification erroneously.

“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,” a spokesperson told The Verge.

“We do not access your camera in those instances, and no content is recorded.”

This is not the only instance where iOS 14’s notifications have alerted users to strange activities. TikTok, Reddit, and LinkedIn, among 53 other applications, were found to be accessing the iPhone clipboard without user knowledge.

The clipboard is where content that is copied is kept before it is pasted. TikTok said it would stop the practice, which the company says was to identify “repetitive, spammy behaviour”.

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