Lawmakers Quiz Apple CEO Over FaceTime Eavesdrop Bug

Photo: Paul Sakuma, AP

A FaceTime bug that allowed virtually anyone to listen in on others when using the Group feature has drawn the interest of federal lawmakers who want to know more about what Apple is doing to secure its users’ privacy.

In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr., and Jan Schakowsky requested details about when Apple first learned of the bug and whether other similar security flaws exist that have not been disclosed.

“While these are wonderful tools when used right, the serious privacy issue with Group FaceTime demonstrates how these devices can also become the ultimate spying machines. That is why it is critical that companies like Apple are held to the highest standards,” wrote Pallone and Schakowsky, the chairs of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, respectively.

“Your company and others must proactively ensure devices and applications protect consumer privacy, immediately act when a vulnerability is identified, and address any harm caused when you fail to meet your obligations to consumers,” they added.

The FaceTime bug was revealed late last week after a teenager first discovered it and his mother reported it to the company. The bug enabled users to essentially trick FaceTime into believing a call was underway before it had been accepted, allowing the caller to receive audio transmitted from the recipient’s device. Gizmodo was able to replicate the bug prior to reporting on it last week.

Apple moved quickly to disable the feature until a patch could be rolled out. The patch was delayed but is expected to be released this week.

The Democrats’ letter requests that Apple respond to questions about the vulnerability, and provide a timeline of the steps that were taken to address it, by no later than February 19.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a previous statement, the company said it was committed to improving the process by which it receives and escalates bug reports. “We take the security of our products extremely seriously and we are committed to continuing to earn the trust Apple customers place in us,” it said.

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