FaceTime bug lets you hear or see through someone else’s iPhone, even if they haven’t answered

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/01/28/facetime-flaws-apple-ios-bug.html

“We’re aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week.” — Apple.


“Oh fuck, it’s this asshole again. I better answer.”


I immediately must go on social media and tell everyone that my privacy has been invaded.


…and automatically begin hearing the other person before they pick up the Facetime call.

Ughh… It’s Cohen again. Hold on Vlad, I need to take this.


better cover your cellphone cameras with post-it notes just to be safe.


Does anyone actually use FaceTime? Serious question. I’m a relaxo, Gen-X, Apple kool-aid drinker, and while I think FaceTime and wrist watches that are a telephone AND record my heartbeat and bowel movements are cool in the same way that Jetsons were cool when I was 5 years old, I really haven’t ANY NEED WHATSOEVER for any of it.

Hint to millennials: if you need a 5 way video conferencing call to decide on dinner, you’re doing it wrong.


Sometimes. If it disappeared tomorrow I wouldn’t really care, tho.
I would think some people like it more for doing video calls with family across distances and that kind of thing.
I think my wife would use it to talk to her mom if they actually used any technology…

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On occasion. My Dad was a much bigger proponent of it.

I don’t know what to make of smart watches. I remember a series of young adult books about a KD-series watch which was all techy and futuristic, but set in the modern day (that is, the 80s), so I thought I’d be into it—but nope. (Anyone remember those books by chance? I can’t remember the titles or the author. Or much else.)

For all my obsession with futurism in the 80s, I mostly use the keyboard and the Cintiq to get stuff done on a computer.


Yeah, basically the same people who use Skype for video calls, which is to say, older people. Many of us have parents who insist on video calling, no matter how inconvenient.

It might be cultural, from where they grew up when the landline phone was the very axis of social life, and TV was all breathless depictions of The Future with its marvellous video-telephones. Or it might be a cognitive thing, like, they don’t notice the botheringness of video-call eye contact in the same way they don’t notice that their new TV makes movies look like local news.


How sneaky! However, the ringing of the phone might spoil the element of surprise.

Sure, it’s a bug. Definitely not a corporate/government requested feature to harvest/spy on your personal data.

I am starting to see people who do not actively subvert and sabotage big data as dangerous to the nation/world. Much in the same way as anti-vaccine, anti-intellectual and anti-agw crowds.

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Yes. It lets me see my sister in Austin without either of us needing to buy a plane ticket with money we don’t have. Not as good as face-to-face visiting, but vastly better than voice only calling.

It’s also come in handy for troubleshooting my extremely technophobic mother’s tech problems when her computer is not able to connect to the internet (when it can connect, I just use teamviewer to go in and see what’s gone wrong). Although I still can’t get her to stop turning the phone around when she wants to show me something - touching the button to switch to the rear facing camera is one of the many, many things that she has trouble wrapping her head around.


You mean the way the other person is always looking down away from the camera? A trivial annoyance that is more than made up for by the ability to see someone you care about without having to physically travel to them.

You remember the Hangouts part of Google Plus? That got used, a ton, by tabletop gamers playing pen and paper RPGs with their online friends. Organize a pick up game using IMs in Plus, then jump onto a group hangout and invade the Caves of Chaos with half a dozen strangers over the internet. Now that Google is shutting down Plus and Hangouts, I suspect some of those games will start being organized using imessage and played over group facetime calls.

Here’s the original info for FLAILSNAILS, rules enabling D&D pick up games over google Hangouts:


Plus is going away but Hangouts is being replaced with Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.

Do they have any call metadata records that would let them figure out if anyone was using it in the wild before now?

By the time you posted, Apple had already turned off Facetime Group Messaging so it was no longer possible for this to work. So why post it like it was a current problem? Oh yeah, because you and Corey dislike Apple.

As for those asking who uses Facetime? Those of us with Apple devices who don’t want our every word being uploaded to Google/Amazon for analysis to be used to better “sell” us. That’s not just oldsters but everyone with an iDevice including kids with hand me down iPhones & iPads.

Was it a serious bug? Yes.
Were a lot of people exposed? Potentially yes, but not in reality because Apple shut down Group Messaging when awareness of the issue started becoming public. Yes, IMO they should have taken Group Messaging offline ASAP but we do not know the timeline of when Apple became aware of the issue. Did it take minutes for them to determine that disabling Group Messaging would squash the bug? Hours?
Will Group Messaging be back soon? Yes, Apple will be publishing updates that willdefinitively squash the bug in Facetime clients at which point Facetime Group Messaging will be turned back on (presumably only for those with updated clients.


As I say, other people clearly experience it differently than I do. When the person on the other end is framed as if I’m watching them rob a convenience store, for me that makes it less immediate than an audio call, because it feels like they’re reacting to someone else. Plus, it’s less comfortable because you have to be immobile and fully clothed for the whole call.

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On a freemium model, because hangouts is now supposed to be a for-pay service for corporations. The online D&D community glommed onto Plus because it provided a social network for meeting players interested in similar games plus a multiperson videocalling app that worked well for playing RPGs. Not sure what they’re going to use to replace it - maybe Discord, or maybe the community will fragment onto several different platforms.

Clothed - not if you hold the phone close enough that it’s just a head shot. My sister has videocalled me from the bathtub on occasion. You always see what the other person is seeing in the corner of your screen so you can adjust how you’re holding things if something awkward is showing (of the room or of you).

Immobile - say what? I’ve carried the device around from room to room while Facetimeing. So the other person gets some interesting views of your ceiling and the top of your head until you stop and reposition the phone, so what?

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I have to say, maybe it’s not as bad as the early 2000s but back when everyone’s PCs were being constantly infected by malware and viruses my macs have always stayed clean. Have vulnerabilities been found, yeah of course - and they always patch them before anyone actually takes advantage of those vulnerabilities. People seem to have a certain amount of schadenfreude about apple vulnerabilities, but every time I’ve seen one mentioned in the news, the problem has already been fixed and my computer (and iPhone for that matter) has remained clean.

I am an old, but it’s my kids who insist on Facetime to call home from college. They want to see me, they want to see the cats, and besides, my desktop Mac never fails due a dead battery like my phone does.