After a massive FaceTime bug that allowed users to potentially listen in on others when using the Group feature surfaced Monday, Apple disabled Group FaceTime in a short-term fix to the problem. An update to address the problem was expected this week, but Apple said Friday that while it has fixed the issue on its servers, we won’t see an update to re-enable Group FaceTime until next week.
In a statement to 9to5Mac, the company thanked the family of the teenager who discovered the bug and apologized “to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue.” The company also appeared to address concerns that the problem was not immediately addressed despite the family’s claims that they made repeated attempts to flag the problem to Apple:
We want to assure our customers that as soon as our engineering team became aware of the details necessary to reproduce the bug, they quickly disabled Group FaceTime and began work on the fix. We are committed to improving the process by which we receive and escalate these reports, in order to get them to the right people as fast as possible. We take the security of our products extremely seriously and we are committed to continuing to earn the trust Apple customers place in us.
Grant Thompson, 14, reportedly learned of the bug accidentally while trying to start a Group FaceTime with two friends. When swiping up to connect with a second friend before the first one had answered, he discovered he was then instantly connected to the first friend’s phone even though they had not answered the call. The teen flagged the issue to his mother Michele Thompson, who told NBC News she then tried to escalate the glitch to Apple through multiple channels including by email and phone, but said she wasn’t able to connect with anyone to address the issue.
Grant Thompson told MarketWatch that it was more than a week before they were able to connect with Apple, adding that his mother “contacted them almost every single day through email, calling, faxing.” Michele Thompson, a lawyer, told the site that there should be better systems in place for “for the average citizen to report things like this.”
The bug could work on users whose devices supported Group FaceTime, which included those running iOS 12.1 and macOS Mojave 10.14.1 or later. Apple is already facing multiple lawsuits over the incident.
Following news of the eavesdropping bug this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a consumer alert about the bug, which he described as “an egregious breach of privacy that puts New Yorkers at risk.” Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James later announced that New York state would be opening an investigation into the incident.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between their private communications and their privacy rights,” James said in a statement. “This FaceTime breach is a serious threat to the security and privacy of the millions of New Yorkers who have put their trust in Apple and its products over the years.”