iPhone 4 reportedly capturing images at random using front camera


In an issue that will have privacy advocates up in arms, iPhone 4 owners are claiming their devices are, in effect, spying on them using the phone's front-facing camera.

In a thread on Apple's support forums, Virginia-based user ''kar0786'' claimed that on several occasions when using the FaceTime video calling feature, both she and her boyfriend had been presented with photos apparently taken by the phone without their knowledge.

''It brought up photos of both of us at work, where I have used FaceTime a few times but he never has. We're just wondering how/why this is happening, and if there is a fix. It's not terribly inconvenient, but it's definitely unsettling, where is seems that even if we haven't taken a picture or used FaceTime, the camera is keeping images,'' she said.

Her story was corroborated by several other users, all of whom claimed to have had similar experiences.

''My Bf and I both have the [iPhone] 4 but I have the newest OS update and he doesn't. I am the only one whose phone does this. I will try to facetime him and a "picture" of my from the last facetime call I made shows up and sometimes it does it several times in a row,'' wrote maddad.

User Detroit313 said their phone appeared to have captured an image without having had the FaceTime app open at all.

''I had left the phone in the car when I ran in to get my sandwich. This was at a strip mall that I had never visited before and never connected to any WiFi...Ran [to] it, got my food, hopped back in the car. I hit the button to see if anyone called me (no one did) and drove off. After I got in to where I was working and ate my sandwich, I tried to use FaceTime and saw a frozen image of me in the car from 20-30 minutes prior!'' they said.

Apple has yet to comment on the issue and it seems far from widespread at this point. If user reports are accurate, however, iPhone 4 owners may want to keep an eye on their device, because it could be keeping an eye on you.

Image Credit: wearechange.org

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51 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

IMHO its just a glitch, and im not trolling. Having a frozen image of last session is not the same thing as ur iPhone taking random images. Making such a statement is just absurd, coz no company would risk bugging ur phone like that even by mistake.

Having said that, do u guys remember the '2011- Year of iPad 2' Video shown in the keynote at the end? the grandparents were FaceTime calling their granddaughter and there was a frozen image/live video before the kid accepted their call..
i do not own an iPad 2, but i have an iPhone 4 and i havent experienced that in FaceTime yet.. If what i observed is correct, may be this isnt a bug on the iPhone and its intentional..

next thing you some some girl will be complaining the iphone4 trapped her bf inside the phone during a facetime call

Wow the article content was very different from what the title...
If it do as they say sometimes show a picture from last time when starting facetime that is hardly random, it's not taking random spy pictures as the title implies, there is probably a purpose for it, not a clue what though...

Yeah I'm not buying this, please submit your photos as a proof, I'll be in charge of handling pretty ladies only.

I cannot confirm this and as someone pointed out already - seeing pictures of the last FaceTime call appear when making a new FaceTime call is not exactly "taking pictures randomly". It's not flushing caches properly. And from the reports that are getting in I would say it's simply a bug in the newest iOS, since that one user reported she had the problem with the newest firmware but her friend didn't.

But oh, wait, sorry, it's actually Steve Jobs snatching pictures of you to jerk off in his evil chamber of doom. Sorry, must have got that one wrong.

thnok said,
And can anyone else confirm this? Maybe a neowin user?
I can confirm it. Random picture shown to both parties during FaceTime, and usually there is no update to the video (local or on the remote site) when this happened. The picture would be shown as a still on both phones. Happened to both myself and my girlfriend when we upgraded to 4.3 ... seems to have been resolved with 4.3.1

thnok said,
Maybe it's a feature!

Seriously, do we really need this and "your holding it wrong" in every iPhone article?

*Edit*

Ugh I just read further down.
Could be worse I guess, we could see every article comment start with a "First!"

not to get technical, but if you are using facetime how is it taking pictures without your knowladge? that's all facetime does is take pictures </end lawyer sarcasim mode >

I'd be more surprised if it came up with random pictures of other people. From a programmer's perspective, this seems to have something to do with how FaceTime reacts to running in the background

yeah I noticed this when using facetime, that at first it showed an image of the last session. (which is different than the device taking pics at random, btw)

Side-effect of backgrounding the FaceTime app...
No privacy issue here as no apps will have access to this data. Easy fix for apple, just handle applicationWillEnterForeground and clear the buffer before the display shows up....

bugsbungee said,
Side-effect of backgrounding the FaceTime app...
No privacy issue here as no apps will have access to this data. Easy fix for apple, just handle applicationWillEnterForeground and clear the buffer before the display shows up....

Sounds about right to me! A simple fix would more than likely be included within the next update.

Also, these "images" are not appearing in the photo roll by the sounds of things, so it is more than likely a buffering issue.

Way to sensationalise Neowin.

I'm loving the comments on this already - the automatic assumption that this is the user's fault or they are somehow getting it wrong and Apple are completly blameless.

Wouldnt it be more prudent to wait until more information / details come to light before commenting ? That way we'll have a better idea as to what is going on. For all we know this is what was meant to happen - the taking pictures at random - only there was an expectation it would go unnoticed.

ramesees said,
Wouldnt it be more prudent to wait until more information / details come to light before commenting ?

Wouldn't it be better to wait until more information is available before 'breaking' the news story in the first place? At the moment it's all just rumor and hearsay not based on any solid fact. What has happened to journalism in the world today?

ramesees said,
I'm loving the comments on this already - the automatic assumption that this is the user's fault or they are somehow getting it wrong and Apple are completly blameless.

Wouldnt it be more prudent to wait until more information / details come to light before commenting ? That way we'll have a better idea as to what is going on. For all we know this is what was meant to happen - the taking pictures at random - only there was an expectation it would go unnoticed.

I guess people jump to conclusions of user error because many people dissect the iPhone and it's software on every new release and didn't notice it so we can assume that it does not happen to all iPhones. i guess you did the opposite and just assumed that "they" are out to get you. One thing I can safely say is that "you" are not that interesting or important.

chadlachlanross said,

Wouldn't it be better to wait until more information is available before 'breaking' the news story in the first place? At the moment it's all just rumor and hearsay not based on any solid fact. What has happened to journalism in the world today?

Speculation can still be included in journalism, although this is hardly speculative, it is reporting that some people think there is an issue.

Mark Thomas said,
Hey "kar0786"? Yeh, over here, that's right. About this random photo taking, can you just **** OFF please?

Hey "Mark Thomas"? Yeh, over here, that's right. About this random troll post, can you just troll somewhere else?

Mark Thomas said,
Hey "kar0786"? Yeh, over here, that's right. About this random photo taking, can you just **** OFF please?

trollers gonna troll

Albert said,
if you are (a) stupid, (b) clueless, and (c) paranoia, do everyone a favor - don't buy iphone please.
Actually if you are stupid, please do buy an iphone! That's who it's marketed towards Apple = it just works

Albert said,
if you are (a) stupid, (b) clueless, and (c) paranoia, do everyone a favor - don't buy iphone please.

I'm glad that no one I know goes to you for tech advice.

tsupersonic said,
Actually if you are stupid, please do buy an iphone! That's who it's marketed towards Apple = it just works

Or you, for that matter.

Sounds like they're not flushing their buffers properly, and an image used in the last FaceTime session ends up in the stream as the camera is initialising in the next one.

If not that, something similar. Not really the same as the phone "taking pictures at random".

Armchair programming is fun!

iKenndac said,
Sounds like they're not flushing their buffers properly, and an image used in the last FaceTime session ends up in the stream as the camera is initialising in the next one.

If not that, something similar. Not really the same as the phone "taking pictures at random".

Armchair programming is fun!

Amen. Same thoughts here!

GS:mac

iKenndac said,
Sounds like they're not flushing their buffers properly, and an image used in the last FaceTime session ends up in the stream as the camera is initialising in the next one.

If not that, something similar. Not really the same as the phone "taking pictures at random".

Armchair programming is fun!

"''I had left the phone in the car when I ran in to get my sandwich. This was at a strip mall that I had never visited before and never connected to any WiFi...Ran [to] it, got my food, hopped back in the car. I hit the button to see if anyone called me (no one did) and drove off. After I got in to where I was working and ate my sandwich, I tried to use FaceTime and saw a frozen image of me in the car from 20-30 minutes prior!'' they said."

Can't be...

GrandTheftAuto said,
LOL!, What i would do is stick something on top the camera

where'd I put the electrical tape? Red Green style