Imagine that you open the Firefox browser on Android, use the camera in that app and, when finished, close the app and continue doing other things, either with the phone in your hand or back in your pocket. It’s a pretty common action, right? Well now keep imagining, and think that Although the browser no longer has to use the camera function, it is still active and, therefore, collecting images. Well I have bad news, this last part you don’t need to imagine it, because it turns out to be real.
As reported today by ZDNet, Firefox on Android has suffered from this problem, at least, since July 2019, a year ago now. And I say that at least because that was when a worker from the Appear TV streaming platform informed Mozilla of this problem. And how did you detect it? Well, when checking that the video transmissions started from Firefox on Android remained open even when, in theory, the person who was making them had already “closed” the transmission.
This undoubtedly poses a huge privacy problem, since users are never aware that the transmission they have actually terminated it is still active, so everything collected by the device’s camera can be seen by those who remain connected to the service or platform through which the issue was made. No indicator, nothing. And, of course, no means to be able to close it manually, except to completely close the app or even restart the device.
The problem is even worse, since the camera remains active and capturing signal with Firefox on Android, even if the user changes the page, the app or even blocks the device. It is a persistent process, something that can make sense under certain conditions. For example, if we are having a video conference and, during it, we want to access another app on the device, it would not make sense for us to have to cut the call to change apps. However, that Firefox does not identify that the user wants to end the communication is a quite serious problem.
According to their developers, they are already working to solve the problem of the camera with Firefox on Android. However, it will still take a few months until a solution arrives. At the moment the term is set in October of this year, although it will be necessary to see if, when the date arrives, that solution actually arrives or, on the contrary, it will still have to wait a while longer.
Meanwhile, the solution is to avoid using any video service in Firefox on Android. Instead, most of them have apps that can be downloaded from Google Play, and these do close the connection when they should. The other possibility is to put some kind of cover on the camera, something that is not usually funny to manufacturers, but that today seems to be the only 100% effective measure to ensure that the camera does not observe us when we do not want it to.