News that Apple seemingly ignored repeated reports that its popular FaceTime video app had an alarming privacy-invading bug for a week went viral on social media.
Twitter users questioned whether Apple was ignoring calls to investigate a FaceTime group chat bug that allow the initial caller to listen on the call recipient even if the person on the receiving end didn’t pick up, or the company might have been surreptitiously working on a fix before notifying users about the embarrassing flaw.
Dubbed the FacePalm bug, the flaw has been a source of public humiliation for Apple as users blasted the company for its testing failures and poor response.
Reports surfaced that Arizona attorney Michele Thompson made multiple attempts to warn Apple that her 14-year-old son Grant discovered the bug when he was setting up a group call to play the popular online game Fortnite. Her son was able to hear audio from others in the group while the call was still ringing in and thus before the recipients had consented to participate in the group.
Thompson reached out to Apple via phone, fax, and through social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.
Apple communicated to Thompson through email late in the day on January 23rd that she would need to set up a developer account to report the bug. She responded two days later through that developer account with a YouTube video link revealing how a caller could manipulate the bug to spy on a second party without their knowledge.
Apple’s weak FaceTime response
The company didn’t disable the group chat feature until late in the day on Monday January 28th adding more fuel to the growing FacePalm fire.
Speculation was raised that Apple was aware of the flaw and racing to fix it in a bid to avoid public exposure. Whether that is the case, the incident raises serious questions about the company’s QA testing and customer support.
Having a standardized process for reporting potential software flaws is fine but the failure to find an expedient way to direct a user or developer to that medium and then address an issue in a transparent and expeditious way raises serious red flags that demand further exploration.
For its part, Apple is working on a fix that the company says will be ready this week.
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