FaceTime bug: Apple scrambles to stop bug that allows iPhones to spy on people but full fix won’t be available for days

'Group FaceTime is temporarily unavailable'

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 29 January 2019 09:28 GMT
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces iOS 12.1 will allow 32-person Group FaceTime calls

Apple has switched off its group FaceTime feature after it emerged the feature could be used to snoop on people through their iPhone.

The glitch let users simply call someone up and hear audio or see video through a person’s iPhone, without them realising.

Now the company has taken the feature offline in an attempt to stop it being abused. But a full fix won’t be available until later this week, according to Apple.

“Group FaceTime is temporarily unavailable,” Apple’s system status page reads. Some users reported that the group calling feature still appeared to be working even after the message appeared on Apple’s website.

The bug is said to affect devices using versions of iOS 12.1 or later and was first reported by the website 9to5mac, which added that calls have to be made in a particular way in order to exploit the glitch.

It appears to involve the “add person” function of the FaceTime app, confusing it into activating the call recipient’s microphone even before the call is accepted.

In some cases, 9to5mac reported video from the recipient’s device can also be sent before the call is accepted and without the call recipient’s knowledge if they press the power button while on their phone’s lock screen.

The iPhone maker had earlier said it was “aware” of the issue and planned to release a software update later this week to fix the problem.

The incident is embarrassing for the technology giant as it was discovered on Data Privacy Day in the United States, which Apple chief executive Tim Cook had tweeted about, calling for “vital privacy protections”.

Apple has also recently been highlighting its credentials as a company that protects user privacy, using a large billboard overlooking the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas last month to declare “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone”.

The incident also comes ahead of Apple releasing its latest round of financial results, with investors bracing for bad news after Mr Cook issued a warning in January over falling iPhone sales in China, which he said would impact the company’s revenue.

In the meantime, industry figures including Twitter founder Jack Dorsey have urged users to disable the FaceTime feature as a precautionary measure until Apple fixes the issue.

Additional reporting by agencies

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