A bug discovered in FaceTime allows users to hear and see the person they are calling — even if they don't pick up

By Jason Duaine Hahn
January 29, 2019 12:37 PM
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Credit: Apple

A newly discovered FaceTime privacy glitch allows Apple users to hear, and in some cases see, the person they are calling — even if they don’t pick up.

The bug — which went viral over social media on Monday night — affects iPhones and iPads equipped with iOS 12.1 and Apple computers that run macOS Mojave, all of which have the popular Group FaceTime feature that the company has heavily advertised in marketing campaigns.

The glitch works by allowing a user to call anyone using FaceTime and hear live audio from the other iPhone, even if the person chooses to let it ring or outright reject the call. According to 9to5Mac, while the phone is ringing, all the caller would have to do is swipe up on their screen to the “Add Person” option and add their own phone number to the call. It will then start a group FaceTime call that includes themselves and the audio of the recipient regardless if they haven’t answered.

All the while, the recipient would have no indication they are being listened to since their screen would only show the call is coming in and not yet connected.

A video that demonstrated the eavesdropping glitch garnered nearly five million views on Twitter since being posted on Monday.

CNN reported that, with a few additional steps, FaceTime video can be transmitted as well.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Apple said they are aware of the issue and “have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.” Apple did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

In an effort to minimize the impact of the bug before a fix is issued, the company temporarily disabled the Group FaceTime feature last night, according to their website.

The iPhone X

If you want to be addedly cautious, you can turn off FaceTime all together by opening the setting on your iPhone or iPad, selecting the “FaceTime” option, and then toggling the slider from green to gray. With a Mac, you’ll have to open the FaceTime app, find the “FaceTime” option at the top menu, and then select “Turn FaceTime Off.”

In a MacRumors article posted this morning, a Twitter user tried tweeting to Apple Support over a week before the glitch went viral to report her 14-year-old son finding a “major security flaw” in Group FaceTime. After not hearing back, the unidentified woman tweeted directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“I called, FB messaged, faxed, emailed and tweeted Apple exhaustively last week to no avail,” she tweeted last night. “Never heard from them.”

With iPhone sells slowing over the last few months since the release of the iPhone XS, the news is surely coming at a bad time for the company.