Apple Disabled Group FaceTime Calls Due to Privacy Bug

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FaceTime has a bug that allows for brief eavesdropping before the recipient picks up.

Apple Inc. has recently acknowledged a flaw in its FaceTime software that allowed an iPhone or iPad user to hear what someone was saying before that person answered the call. FaceTime group calls have since been disabled until the bug can be fixed.

The issue went viral on Twitter and Snapchat and even made its way up to the Twitter CEO himself, Jack Dorsey, who advised people to disable FaceTime until Apple could release a fix, which they stated they would do this week. The event was entirely ironic and embarrassing for Apple since it surfaced Monday on Data Privacy Day, when CEO Tim Cook called for privacy reforms, and since iPhone is known for being a vocal defender of its users’ data through speeches, aiming rivals like Facebook.

In some cases it seems that the target iPhone could also send video without the receiver’s knowledge. The bug seems to appear when both users are running version 12.1 of Apple’s mobile operating system iOS, or newer. It also affects Mac users when they are called from an iPhone. The flaw comes from apparently confusing the software into activating the target’s microphone, even if the call has not been accepted.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has also advised his city’s residents “to disable their FaceTime app until a fix is made available”. He also stated that “The FaceTime bug is an egregious breach of privacy that puts New Yorkers at risk. In New York, we take consumer rights very seriously and I am deeply concerned by this irresponsible bug that can be exploited for unscrupulous purposes.”

However, it seems that Apple has developed a fix and an update will be available later this week.

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