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26-Oct-2017 - Apple has been urged to change the way in which iPhone apps are granted access to the phone's camera after a security researcher demonstrated how apps can secretly record photos and videos without the user knowing.
Felix Krause, an Austrian developer who works for Google, built an app that was able to take pictures of its user every second and upload them, without notifying the user. He called it a "privacy loophole that can be abused by iOS apps".
When an app wants to access the camera, for example to scan a credit card or take a profile picture during the set-up process, the iPhone user must give the app permission, in the same way that apps must ask to access the camera roll, location and contacts and to send notifications. Once allowed, it has to be turned off via the settings menu.
The system is similar to the permissions required by apps on Android. Google has recently deleted several apps that surreptitiously recorded users and masqueraded as legitimate apps.
The iPhone's camera app permissions do not differentiate between the phone's front and back camera. Allowing camera permissions can grant extra access in the latest version of iOS, which has a facial recognition engine that could allow apps to detect emotions.
The permissions system is not a bug or a flaw - it works in exactly the way Apple has designed it - but Krause said malicious apps could take advantage of it to secretly record users.
Krause said Apple should introduce a system of temporary permissions - one that allows apps to take a picture during the set-up process, but revokes it after a period of time - or to introduce a warning light or notification to the iPhone that tells people when they are being recorded.
Note from j: If you or your loved ones (esp. kids) use an iPhone, use below steps to check the settings. I don't use apps on my phone, but I presume various social media apps will be listed since they allow you to upload photos and videos. Maybe deactivate apps until you want to use them, then turn them off when done or use removable camera covers. Stay safe!
iPhone -- How to see what apps can use the camera