Facebook accused of spying on Instagram users through smartphone cameras

As reported by Bloomberg, Facebook is once again being sued, this time for allegedly spying on Instagram users through the unauthorised use of smartphone cameras.

The complaint was filed on Thursday 18 September 2020 with the federal court in San Francisco by an Instagram user who posits that the app’s use of the camera is intentional.

Is Facebook spying on Instagram users?

According to the court documents, the user claims that the users are being spied on for the purpose of collecting “lucrative and valuable data” the app would not have access to otherwise. Robert Burnson writes:

By “obtaining extremely private and intimate personal data on their users, including in the privacy of their own homes”, Instagram and Facebook are able to collect “valuable insights and market research”.

Facebook declined to comment.

Authorised iPhone breach

Similar reports surfaced back in November 2019 when Facebook was accused of accessing iPhone cameras without users’ permission. At times, the camera would be active even when Instagram wasn’t in use.

One netizen shared a video clip on Twitter to show how the app can “actively” access the iPhone camera app. Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen said it “sounds like a bug”.

In a report published by TechCrunch, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that “version 244 of the Facebook iOS app would incorrectly launch in landscape mode”. The following explanation was provided.

“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”.

Instagram password breach

Prior to that, in March 2019, Facebook admitted to storing millions of Instagram passwords “in plain text”; in doing so, compromised the security of millions of Instagram accounts.

Facebook confirmed in a blog post that the security breach came to light in January 2019, which prompted an in-depth investigation into the issue. Facebook claimed the passwords “weren’t abused”.

“These passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them. We’ve not found any cases so far in our investigations where someone was looking intentionally for passwords, nor have we found signs of misuse of this data”.

Facebook and Instagram outage

News of the current lawsuit follows after both Facebook and Instagram went down on Thursday evening. Users took to Twitter and reported difficulty accessing Facebook and Instagram.

Some netizens had trouble accessing their news feeds while others couldn’t log in at all. Facebook business platforms were also affected. Both platforms were operational again later during the day. Protection Status

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