Apple Inc. scrambled to fix a bug in its FaceTime video-chat system that lets callers eavesdrop on users of iPhones, iPads, and Macs, an embarrassing setback for a company that has touted its commitment to privacy.
The glitch, which was flagged on social media Monday, allows one FaceTime user calling another to listen in while the recipient’s Apple
device is still ringing—even if the person never accepts the call. It requires several steps, but could be used by someone familiar with the technique to eavesdrop on rooms with unattended devices, to briefly listen in on a FaceTime user before the person accepts or rejects the call, or even to receive an unauthorized video feed from the phone.
Late Monday, Apple disabled the Group FaceTime feature that was linked to the security bug. A spokeswoman said the company was aware of the issue, and expected to release a software fix this week.
The major bug arises at a time when Apple is increasingly highlighting its emphasis on user privacy to distinguish itself from other big tech companies that have had problems protecting users. Before word of the bug surfaced, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook called attention on Twitter to Monday being international Data Privacy Day. “On this #DataPrivacyDay let us all insist on action and reform for vital privacy protections,” his tweet said. “The dangers are real and the consequences are too important.”
Also popular on WSJ.com:
Get the top tech stories of the day delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Tech Daily newsletter. Sign up here.