Secret Selfies: iPhone Apps Can Take Pictures and Videos of You Without Your Knowledge

“Let’s take a selfie” has become quite the popular request in 2017. Most everyone captures the occasional self-portrait using the reverse camera setting on the iPhone. But what happens if there are selfies occurring without your knowledge? And no, we’re not talking about paparazzi photos or some reality show. We’re talking about your iPhone, which has been discovered to include a feature allowing any app that has permission to access the phone’s camera to secretly take pictures and videos of you as long as it is running in the foreground.

So, how did this discovery first come to light? A developer from Google detailed a proof-of-concept project in his blog, and showed iPhone users that even if you don’t see the camera “open” in the form of an on-screen viewfinder, an app can still take photos and videos of you pretty much at any time. Also, it’s important to note that this discovery is not a bug, but likely intended behavior.

So, what exactly can this feature do? Once you grant an app access to your camera, it can:

  • Record you at any time the app is in the foreground
  • Take pictures and videos without telling you
  • Upload the pictures/videos it takes immediately
  • Run real-time face recognition to detect facial features or expressions

Clearly, the feature has some potential. Especially since most of us only think the camera is only being used if we see camera content or a LED is blinking, and the iPhone has no mechanism to indicate to a user that the camera is on.

So beyond staying aware of this feature, it’s important you take precautionary steps to safeguard your personal privacy. To do just that, follow these tips:

  • Use camera covers. Though this trick might seem a little old school, it’s still just as effective, as it allows you to be selective when you want your face to be seen. There’s a variety of camera covers you can purchase online, or you can even use a sticky note.
  • Get picky with what apps get camera access. When you first download an app, you’ll get a notification requesting camera access. Unless it requires it, or you truly want the app to have it, don’t provide the app with access. Mind you, you can also revoke camera access for all apps. Also, when possible, always use the built-in camera app and use the image picker of each app to select the photo.
  • Use a mobile security solution. Even though this feature was not a bug, it is important to always secure the personal data stored on your phone in case this trick gets into the wrong hands. Add an extra layer of security onto your phone with a mobile security solution, such as McAfee Mobile Security.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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