Let’s be honest. Most of us have used our iPhone in situations during which we’d rather not be observed.
Show me someone who claims they have never used their iPhone on the toilet to peruse the latest memes or watch the latest viral panda video, and I’ll show you a liar.
So, it should come as a shock to most Apple devotees that your private moments of meme reflection may not be as private as you first thought.
iOS engineer Felix Krause has set out to ‘highlight a privacy loophole that can be abused by iOS apps’, and the results of his findings are pretty horrifying for naked iOS app aficionados and throne-sitting iOS app users alike.
Namely, that once you grant an app access to your camera, it can unleash Black Mirror style hell, with the power to ‘access both the front and the back camera, record you at any time the app is in the foreground’ and ‘take pictures and videos without telling you.
In other words, Felix told UNILAD:
If you think about the average social media app or messaging service, they could in theory access your camera any time the app is running.
Apple will check for this in the app review probably, but developers could find a way around it.
It’s definitely something that shouldn’t be possible like it is now.
To make matters worse, your iOS apps can ‘upload the pictures and videos it takes immediately’, ‘run real-time face recognition to detect facial features or expressions’ and ‘all without indicating that your phone is recording you’.
Don’t believe me? Krause, in all his technological genius, has made a proof of concept app which shows just how it works.
You can watch the handy demo below:
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Some have long been suspicious this is the case, but were generally branded paranoid in a pre-Snowden world. This footage provides definitive proof iOS apps have the ability to invade your privacy without you knowing.
So, how can you protect yourself?
The only real safe way to protect yourself is using camera covers: there is many different covers available, find one that looks nice for you, or use a sticky note.
You can revoke camera access for all apps, always use the built-in camera app, and use the image picker of each app to select the photo.
Krause has since reported the issue to Apple and has submitted a number of suggestions to the tech giant to solve the problem.
He advised Apple allow users to grant only temporary access to the camera for apps, and introduce an icon in the status bar that lets us know when the camera is recording.
Felix also adds you can check which apps have access to your cameras and photo library by going to Settings > Privacy.
It should be noted, the problem occurs in only iPads and iPhones, as the designers of the MacBook added an LED to show when the camera is active.
This comes just days after the latest iOS update attempt – the third in as many weeks – has caused more problems than its bug fixes have solved, with reports of dwindling battery life and issues with overall stability, Touch ID and Bluetooth.
In this post-Snowden world, perhaps it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
So – hygiene aside – let’s stop taking our phones to the loo.
It’s not worth going viral. Literally.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.