Apple’s iOS 14 has been working admirably of uncovering the sketchy conduct of some prominent applications. Presently it shows up Instagram is the most recent to have activated one of its new security alerts.
Some iPhone users are being warned that the Instagram app has been accessing their cameras even when they weren’t taking photos or recording video. The alert comes from a new camera indicator, added in iOS 14 beta, that glows green whenever camera use is detected. A similar indicator glows yellow to indicate microphone use.
This warning led some to believe, quite understandably, that their cameras had been capturing images without their consent.
Now Instagram has responded to the claims, stating that this unexpected behavior is actually down to a bug in iOS and that a fix is currently under development. In an official statement to The Verge, an Instagram spokesperson writes:
“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.”
Bugs are always going to appear in beta versions of software and it’s good that this one has been caught early. The vast majority of iPhone users won’t ever see this particular bug on their own devices, as it will have been fixed long before iOS 14 goes on public release.
However, some aspects of the spokesperson’s wording seem a little unusual. If the bug is in iOS 14 Beta as the statement claims, and not in Instagram’s own code, why is it down to Instagram’s programmers to fix it rather than Apple’s? Once the bug is fixed, it may be possible to determine exactly where it came from, but until then we’ll just have to take Instagram’s word for it.
These new security features are a great idea, but only if they can be trusted. Apple should be concerned if the camera indicator is revealed to be delivering false positives as this would significantly undermine user trust while allowing rogue developers to simply blame Apple any time an app is caught doing something it shouldn’t.
Several apps, including LinkedIn, Reddit and Tik Tok, have already been caught out by a similar iOS 14 security feature that exposes when an app is caught reading the user’s clipboard.
iOS 14 is expected to be released this September alongside a new range of iPhones.