FaceTime Bug Update: Apple Pulls FaceTime Group Calling After Bug Allows Eavesdropping, How to Disable FaceTime

facetime bug apple pulls group calling eavesdrop how to disable facetime
The logo of FaceTime is pictured on an iPhone screen in Berlin on January 29. Apple announced a software update would be released this week after users reported being able to eavesdrop on other users through the FaceTime group calling feature. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Apple is scheduled to release a software update within the next few days after users reported being able to listen in on a person's conversation even if the person didn't answer their phone.

The bug was discovered in the FaceTime application, which allows users to call friends with either just their voices or through a video. When a FaceTime call was initiated with another user, if the caller added their phone number as an additional caller, a group FaceTime call was created.

Even if the person on the other end of the line didn't pick up the call, the caller was able to hear the recipient talking, according to 9to5Mac. On the caller's screen, it would appear as if the recipient joined the group phone call, but on the recipient's phone, it was still ringing. Newsweek reached out to Apple but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Aside from audio, 9to5Mac discovered video was also able to be transmitted. If, while the call was coming through, the recipient pressed the power button from the lock screen, a video feed was unknowingly sent to the caller.

9to5Mac confirmed the bug worked with an iPhone X calling an iPhone XR but said it's believed to be possible with all iOS devices that have iOS 12.1 or later installed on the phone.

Apple launched Group FaceTime in 2018 and 9to5Mac reported the feature was disabled following the revelation about the bug, which Newsweek confirmed.

"We're aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week," an Apple spokesperson told CNBC.

Although the bug seems to only be affecting the group FaceTime feature, for those who want added protection until a fix is released, it's best to turn off the FaceTime feature altogether. To disable the FaceTime feature on iPhone and iPad devices, just go to "Settings," then "FaceTime," and press the button next to the word "FaceTime" so that it is white instead of green.

Given that the bug allowed users to listen in on calls of unsuspecting people, it prompted concerns over privacy violations. Coincidentally, on the same day that Apple announced it was working on a software fix for the issue, CEO Tim Cook posted on Twitter about the fight for privacy.

"On this #DataPrivacyDay let us all insist on action and reform for vital privacy protections," Cook wrote. "The dangers are real and the consequences are too important"

We must keep fighting for the kind of world we want to live in. On this #DataPrivacyDay let us all insist on action and reform for vital privacy protections. The dangers are real and the consequences are too important.

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) January 28, 2019

Cook has been fairly outspoken about the need for a world in which data breaches are not tolerated and privacy is prioritized. The CEO recently penned an op-ed in Time calling for Congress to pass federal privacy legislation. Cook's push was primarily for regulations on the mining and selling of information, many times unbeknownst to the user. However, the issue of privacy and technology goes beyond just who has the ability to give a person's information to another entity. The issue of privacy is also about who has access to what a person is doing and saying in real time without their knowledge.

"Technology has the potential to keep changing the world for the better, but it will never achieve that potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it," Cook concluded.