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Instagram was secretly opening users' camera – and was spotted after green light appeared in the corner of phones, lawsuit alleges

 Instagram was collecting data it would not otherwise have access to for market research, the lawsuit alleges

Adam Smith
Friday 18 September 2020 12:08 BST
(Georgia de Lotz)
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Facebook is being sued for allegedly spying on Instagram users for market research.

In July, Instagram users noticed that a green FaceTime symbol appeared at the top of the Control Panel when they were scrolling through their feeds.

The green symbol appears when the camera is activated.

Users believed that Instagram had been spying on them, but were only notified about it after downloading the iOS 14 Beta, which added the green symbol to their phones.

Instagram was collecting “lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to” by activating the app’s camera intentionally, Instagram user Brittany Conditi alleged in a complaint filed on Thursday.

By “obtaining extremely private and intimate personal data on their users, including in the privacy of their own homes,” Instagram and its parent company Facebook can collect “valuable insights and market research,” the complaint says, as reported by Bloomberg.

The case is Conditi v. Instagram, LLC, 20-cv-06534, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

At the time, Instagram said that the issue was due to a bug in the app’s code.

The company said that the Instagram’s “Create Mode”, which allows users to share posts that do not contain photos or videos by swiping left from the home feed or through the Instagram camera, caused the notification.

“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 said.

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

The Independent has reached out to Facebook for comment on the recent allegations.

Recently, Apple’s iOS software on iPhones and iPads was updated to add privacy features  – including a small orange dot if the microphone is being used, or a green one if the camera is.

If the dot appears at the top of the phone, an app is using either hardware. Swiping down to the Control Centre reveals which app is using it.

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