Imagine browsing your phone whilst on the loo, and seeing a little green icon appear to tell you that your camera or mic is being used, despite you not wanting it to be. You would feel violated and aggrieved and panicked would you not? Well that is exactly how Brittany Conditi, an Instagram user, felt when she noticed that the green dot that signified camera usage was on against her will. Conditi has decided to sue Instagram and its parent company Facebook for a violation of privacy.
Conditi seems to have based her claim on the release of iOS 14, which added features to Apple products that alert users when their devices’ cameras or microphones are being used by apps. As previously mentioned Conditi noticed that the green dot signifying camera usage was on without her consent, and thus she and her team concluded that the app was collecting ‘valuable research and insights’ by obtaining ‘extremely private and intimate personal data on her and others, in the privacy of their own homes.’
Naturally, Facebook denied the reports that it had done this deliberately and instead blamed the issue on a bug which it claimed it was correcting to prevent further ‘false’ notifications appearing on iPhones alerting users that Instagram was using their cameras against their will.
Doubt remains over Facebook’s claims of unknowingness given that they had been sued earlier in the year for allegedly using facial recognition technology to illegally harvest the biometric data of more than 100 million Instagram users. Facebook naturally denied the claim and stated that Instagram didn’t use face recognition technology.
Now, whilst some people have become more aware of what Facebook and Instagram are doing, one has to wonder just how much change there will actually be. Such pessimism is warranted given the large sums that were donated by Silicon Valley to Joe Biden’s campaign during the election and the fact that many members of the Valley are to serve on his transition team.
It is highly unlikely that these Valley members will work to hurt their fellow Valleyites, and indeed, the potential for increased cronyism is possible given the way social media companies worked to aid Biden during the campaign. Given Biden’s own frailties, it is possible that issues stemming from the Conditi case may be overlooked and thus allowed to continue.
All in all, the Conditi case is one to keep an eye on for it may influence how we deal with Silicon Valley for years to come.