- Apple has temporarily disabled group FaceTime calls after being alerted to a major bug allowing iPhone or iPad users to secretly hear what someone is saying before the person answers the call.
- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was among those advising people to disable FaceTime until Apple could release a fix, which it said it would do this week.
- The bug is acutely embarrassing for Apple, which has long touted its privacy credentials. It also surfaced on Data Privacy Day, when CEO Tim Cook called for privacy reforms.
Apple has been carefully cultivating its image as the prince of privacy in Silicon Valley.
The iPhone maker has tried to cement its reputation as the defender of its users’ data through speeches, thinly disguised attacks on rivals like Facebook, and giant Las Vegas billboards at the CES conference.
But on Monday the shine of Apple’s rhetoric was smudged by an embarrassing FaceTime bug.
The bug allows an iPhone or iPad user to hear what someone else is saying before that person answers the call. Apple has now temporarily shut down group FaceTime calls, which trigger the bug.
The issue surfaced on Twitter and Snapchat and quickly went viral, even making its way up to the Twitter CEO himself, Jack Dorsey, who advised his followers to disable FaceTime while Apple figured out a fix.
Here’s the bug in action:
— Benji Mobb™ (@BmManski) January 28, 2019
It’s unclear how long the FaceTime bug has been out in the wild.
A Twitter user, MGT7, said their teenage son discovered the bug last week.
MGT7 tweeted at Apple Support on January 21 alerting employees to the vulnerability.
On Monday, the person published an email sent to Apple.
“My teenage son has discovered a major privacy flaw in your newest update that allows users to listen in on other individuals without their permission,” the email said.
Business Insider asked Apple why the concerns were not addressed earlier. It declined to provide further information beyond a statement it issued Monday, in which the company said it had “identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.”
In the meantime, Apple has disabled Group FaceTime calls. A System Status page on its website shows an amber warning next to FaceTime, with a note saying group calls are “temporarily unavailable.”
Apple’s FaceTime bug was compounded by the fact that it surfaced on Data Privacy Day. Originating in Europe in 2006, the day is designed to raise awareness about people’s personal information.
It was marked on Monday by none other than Apple CEO Tim Cook, who called for “action and reform” and privacy issues – a nod to his previous demands for federal privacy laws in the US.
We must keep fighting for the kind of world we want to live in. On this #DataPrivacyDay let us all insist on action and reform for vital privacy protections. The dangers are real and the consequences are too important.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) January 28, 2019
The news also came less than 24 hours before Apple was due to report close-watched quarterly earnings, in which the company is expected to report a decline in iPhone sales.