Creepy smartphone rumor strikes fear into the hearts of TikTok users: 'Big Brother is hard at work'

·2-min read
iphone infrared photos
iphone infrared photos

A social media post that made a disturbing claim about certain smartphones went viral in May, but thankfully, it’s completely untrue. 

TikTok user @briethomason said in a video that iPhones take an infrared picture of the user every five seconds. 

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She seemingly demonstrated this by showing that she could see a light flash through an infrared camera lens every few seconds as another person used the phone.

It wasn’t long before conspiracy theorists began sharing the video, claiming that iPhones are taking unauthorized pictures all the time.

“It’s always watching,” one user said.

“Big Brother is hard at work,” another wrote.

Fortunately, the rumor is not true. 

According to the technology news site Boy Genius Report, the flash is not a photo. It’s the iPhone’s Attention Awareness feature checking to see if you are paying attention to the screen. The setting is available on iPhone X and later

You might not even know you have the feature turned on, but it lowers the volume of your alerts when you are looking at the device and dims your screen when you are not. It technically is an infrared emitter located near your camera, but it’s not storing any sort of “invisible” or nonconsensual photos of you.

If that’s still a little too spooky for you, you can turn Attention Awareness off by going to Settings, then to Face ID and Passcode. There, you’ll be able to toggle the Attention Awareness button off. 

Being wary of potential privacy violations is a good thing, so don’t feel silly if you fell for this one. Just remember, as always — not everything you hear on the internet is true. 

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