Apple addresses group FaceTime glitch

Feb 1, 2019 | Biz/Tech


Michelle Halim

Apple Inc. expressed apologies and offered solutions for a FaceTime security glitch in a statement released today.

“We have fixed the group FaceTime security bug on Apple’s servers and we will issue a software update to re-enable the feature for users next week…We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this process.” said Apple in their public statement.

Earlier this week a flaw was found in Apple’s new group FaceTime feature, which allows numerous people at once to chat with video. The glitch triggered widespread consumer anxiety.

Fourteen-year-old Grant Thompson was attempting to do a group FaceTime with his friends when he found a bug in the system that allowed him to eavesdrop without them knowing.

The problem becomes exposed when calling someone on FaceTime. If users were to add an additional phone number to the call using the “Add People” feature, FaceTime would pick up and play sound from the recipient’s phone before they answered the call.

Grant informed his mother, Michele Thompson, a lawyer. She attempted to contact Apple to inform them of the security breach.

Thompson said she had reached out to Apple numerous times by phone, email, Facebook and Twitter. She even sent a video demonstrating the flaw, but received no response.

“I tried my best to report it to them, and they didn’t listen,” said Thompson to news media.

Group FaceTime was released in October 2018 when Apple presented its new iOS 12.1. The feature allows users to have up to 32 people on one FaceTime call.

Although the Thompsons reported the bug to Apple on Jan. 22, the tech company did not address the issue until Jan. 28, when it disabled FaceTime for several hours, long enough to find out what exactly was causing this bug.

Apple now faces a formal investigation over the eavesdropping breach. Letitia James, New York’s Attorney General, announced the investigation Wednesday, saying Apple failed to warn their customers about the security flaw and didn’t address the problem fast enough.

The company said they plan for a new iOS update to be released next week, but have yet to explain to consumers why the update is delayed. Until then, group FaceTime has been and will stay disabled for the current iOS and any past updates.