The Apple Inc. logo is displayed at one of the company's stores in Hong Kong | Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg
The Apple Inc. logo is displayed at one of the company's stores in Hong Kong | Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg
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The bug happens when an iPhone user creates a FaceTime conference call, puts in their phone number, and then adds the number of another person.

San Francisco: Apple Inc. customers discovered a software bug that lets people listen in on other users by way of the company’s FaceTime video chat service in one of the biggest privacy-related problems faced by the company.

The bug allows a user to call someone on FaceTime and automatically begin hearing the other person before they pick up the call. The other person isn’t aware that the caller can hear them. The bug, confirmed by Bloomberg News, happens when a user creates a FaceTime conference call, puts in their phone number, and then adds the number of another person. The flaw also allows video to be sent if the other user clicks either their power button or one of the volume controls.

Later on Monday, Apple’s system status page indicated that group FaceTime is temporarily unavailable, indicating that Apple disabled the flaw remotely. The company, which attracted criticism from business and political leaders, said earlier on Monday that it would release a software update “later this week” to fix the bug. Users can also disable FaceTime on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches in settings and on the Mac under the Preferences tab in the FaceTime application.

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, issued a statement saying that the “FaceTime bug is an egregious breach of privacy that puts New Yorkers at risk.” He said he’s concerned that the flaw could be “exploited for unscrupulous purposes.”

The bug emerged on Data Privacy Day when Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook called for “action and reform for vital privacy protections.” Cook, along with Apple as a whole, has pushed its pro-privacy stance and functionality for months as rivals like Facebook suffered from several data related breaches.

Apple added multi-person FaceTime calling at the end of last year via a software update that was, in part, designed to address previous software bugs.

Jack Dorsey, the chief executive officer of Twitter Inc., recommended that users disable FaceTime until a fix is issued.-Bloomberg

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