Lawsuit accuses Facebook and Instagram of spying on users via smartphone cameras

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Facebook is being sued for allegedly spying on Instagram users through the unauthorized use of a mobile camera on a handset. During July, there was talk that Instagram was accessing cameras on iPhone models even when the camera wasn’t actually being used. Facebook denied that it was using iPhone cameras to spy on Instagram users and instead it blamed a bug which it said it was fixing; the bug, according to Facebook, pushed out incorrect notifications saying that Instagram was accessing iPhone cameras.

Facebook, Instagram accused of spying on users through their smartphones’ cameras

As you might recall, years ago Facebook purchased Instagram for close to $1 billion which is why Facebook is involved in the lawsuit. A Class Action suit was filed in San Francisco on Thursday (via Bloomberg) by Brittany Conditi, a New Jersey Instagram user who claims that Instagram’s access to her phone’s camera was not related to a bug and was actually done on purpose. The plaintiff argues that by taking control of subscribers’ iPhone cameras, Instagram obtains “lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to.” Conditi’s complaint goes on to say that by “obtaining extremely private and intimate personal data on their users, including in the privacy of their own homes,” Instagram and Facebook are able to collect “valuable insights and market research.”

The lawsuit notes that Instagram claims not to use a smartphone’s camera when it isn’t being in use. But in the complaint, the plaintiff says, “However, Instagram does more than it claims. Instagram is constantly accessing users’ smartphone camera feature while the app is open and monitors users without permission.” Additionally, the suit states that there is no legitimate reason for Instagram to access the user’s smartphone camera when they are not using Instagram camera features.

As a result of their actions, the plaintiffs allege that Instagram and Facebook can see their most intimate moments including those conducted in the privacy of their own homes. It also allows Facebook and Instagram to hike their advertising revenue by using the images created with the illegal use of users’ cameras to see what products and brands are being consumed. This data could be employed by the defendants to see how the plaintiffs respond to ads placed on Instagram which is a very important bit of data for advertisers to get a look at.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to certify the suit as a Class Action and they seek a jury trial.

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