Apple has disabled group FaceTime calls after it was humiliated on Data Privacy Day by a bug that lets people listen in on you

Tim Cook.JPGApple CEO Tim Cook.Reuters

  • Apple temporarily disabled group FaceTime calls after it was alerted to a major bug, which allows iPhone or iPad users to secretly hear what someone is saying before they answer the call.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was among those advising people to disable FaceTime until Apple releases a fix, which it said could be as early as 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 over recent months.

The iPhone maker has tried to cement its reputation has the defender of its users' data through speeches, thinly disguised attacks on rivals like Facebook, and giant Las Vegas billboards at CES. 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 secretly hear what someone is saying before they answer 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 figures out a fix.

Here's the bug in action:

It's not clear how long the FaceTime bug has been out in the wild. A Twitter user, named MGT7, said their teenage son discovered the bug last week.

MGT7 tweeted at Apple Support on 21 January alerting employees to the vulnerability. On Monday, they 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.

Read more: Apple's FaceTime has a major bug that lets others listen in on you before you answer the call

Business Insider asked Apple why the concerns were not addressed earlier. It declined to provide further information beyond a statement it issued on Monday, in which the company said it has "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."

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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.

It also comes less than 24 hours before Apple is due to report close-watched quarterly earnings in which the company is expected to report a decline in iPhone sales.

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