Will iPhone take a photo every 5 seconds?

Conspiracy theories and misinformation are always circulating on social media, but they often reach a lot of people. A relatively widespread one of these is that the iPhone secretly takes “infrared pictures”. atechbook checks what’s true about the claim.

A woman has shared a video on the social media platform TikTok that purports to show how the iPhone takes a photo with infrared light every five seconds. In the video, an infrared camera can be seen pointing at an iPhone with Face ID. The camera shows that a light actually lights up on the iPhone every five seconds – even though the device is unlocked and only the home screen is visible.

No, the iPhone does not take secret photos

The reason, however, is not that the device is secretly taking pictures. The iPhone uses it to check whether users are currently looking at the screen or not. The scanning is used for the “attention-sensitive functions”, whereby the iPhone changes its behavior in certain contexts. Examples of the adjusted behavior when the infrared sensor detects a face: The screen is not dimmed, notifications show information on the lock screen and notifications appear with a lower volume.

To explain exactly how scanning works, we have to go into a bit of detail. There are quite a few sensors installed in the iPhone’s notch. They are primarily used for unlocking with Face ID. However, they also have other functions, such as scanning for a face that is looking at the screen. At the Apple event in September 2017, the company showed how these sensors work together. However, only how scanning for a face works is relevant for this article.

The sophisticated sensor system in the iPhone

The proximity sensor detects when something appears in front of the iPhone. The dot projector (Dot Projector) projects tens of thousands of tiny dots forward to detect the shape of the face. What can be seen as blinking in the video is the infrared flood light (Flood Illuminator). This supports the dot projector in a dark environment with an additional cone of infrared light. The infrared camera catches the reflected light and can thus determine whether a face is actually looking at the iPhone screen.

The sensors in the iPhone notch are not only for photos
Apple has been installing the sensor array for Face ID since the iPhone X. Photo: Getty Images

Because infrared light is outside the visible spectrum to the human eye, it’s not noticeable in everyday use. But even a conventional smartphone camera can make the light visible.

Attention-sensitive functions can be deactivated in the settings

As we have shown, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that the iPhone secretly takes a photo every five seconds. If you still don’t feel completely safe, you can always disable infrared scanning in the settings. To do so, simply go to the Settingsyoukuohao_52f27gfH$32JFace ID & Code path and enter your passcode. Disable the Attention check for Face ID and Attention sensitive features options. But beware, this removes an extra layer of security from Face ID, as the system no longer checks whether you are also looking at the iPhone when you unlock it.