House Democrats demand answers from Apple on Group FaceTime eavesdropping flaw

“Top House Democrats are demanding answers from Apple CEO Tim Cook after a bug in the company’s FaceTime program allowed users to listen in on other devices even if their call hadn’t been accepted,” Harper Neidig reports for The Hill.

“Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who leads the panel’s consumer protection subcommittee, wrote to Cook on Tuesday expressing concern about the vulnerability that Apple says it fixed last week,” Neidig reports. “‘As such, we are writing to better understand when Apple first learned of this security flaw, the extent to which the flaw has compromised consumers’ privacy, and whether there are other undisclosed bugs that currently exist and have not been addressed,’ the two Democrats wrote.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Apple has only taken Group FaceTime offline and announced that a fix is coming this week.

The Representatives’ press release, verbatim:

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook today requesting more information about when the company first learned of the security flaw in its Group FaceTime feature, the extent to which the flaw has compromised consumers’ privacy and whether there are other undisclosed bugs that currently exist and have not been addressed.

Pallone and Schakowsky are particularly concerned with the privacy implications of the Group FaceTime bug in a world where smartphones and smart home devices, equipped with cameras and microphones, are used by nearly every adult and many children.

“While these are wonderful tools when used right, the serious privacy issue with Group FaceTime demonstrates how these devices can also become the ultimate spying machines. That is why it is critical that companies like Apple are held to the highest standards,” Pallone and Schakowsky wrote to Cook. “Your company and others must proactively ensure devices and applications protect consumer privacy, immediately act when a vulnerability is identified, and address any harm caused when you fail to meet your obligations to consumers.”

Pallone and Schakowsky are also troubled by how long it took for Apple to address the significant privacy violation, which was apparently identified by Grant Thompson, a 14-year-old boy. The bug allowed users to access a person’s iPhone camera and speaker before they even picked up the Group FaceTime call.

“As a first step, we believe it is important for Apple to be transparent about its investigation into the Group FaceTime vulnerability and the steps it is taking to protect consumers’ privacy,” Pallone and Schakowsky continued. “To date, we do not believe Apple has been as transparent as this serious issue requires.”

The Committee Chairs requested written responses to a series of questions by no later than February 19, 2019, including:

• When did your company first identify the Group FaceTime vulnerability that enabled individuals to access the camera and microphone of devices before accepting a FaceTime call?
Did your company identify the vulnerability before being notified by Mr. Thompson’s mother? Did any other customer notify Apple of the vulnerability?

• Please provide a timeline of exactly what steps were taken and when they were taken to address the vulnerability after it was initially identified.

• What steps are being taken to identify which FaceTime users’ privacy interests were violated using the vulnerability? Does Apple intend to notify and compensate those consumers for the violation? When will Apple provide notification to affected consumers?

• Are there other vulnerabilities in Apple devices and applications that currently or potentially could result in unauthorized access to microphones and/or cameras?

The letter is available HERE.

Apple likely to pay reward to 14-year-old boy who found Group FaceTime eavesdropping bug – February 4, 2019
Apple’s iOS 12.1.4 is coming to fix the worst iPhone and iPad bug to date – February 2, 2019
Apple apologizes for Group FaceTime eavesdropping bug; will issue fix and re-enable feature next week – February 1, 2019
Canadian law firm applies for class action lawsuit against Apple over FaceTime eavesdropping bug – January 31, 2019
New York state begins probe into Apple’s slow response to FaceTime eavesdropping flaw – January 30, 2019
Apple sued over FaceTime bug that lets people eavesdrop – January 30, 2019
Apple was alerted about FaceTime eavesdropping bug days ago, did nothing – January 29, 2019
Apple, champion of ‘privacy,’ utterly blows it with massively stupid FaceTime bug – January 29, 2019
Apple to patch audio bug in FaceTime that allows users to hear audio and see video from users who have not yet accepted a call – January 29, 2019
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015


    1. This just shows you how serious of an issue this is.

      The sad part is, Cook’s been fucking up so much that we’re jaded and it doesn’t even phase us anymore.

      In fact, in the big scheme of all his pathetic blunders over the last 8-years, we consider this is a minor one.

      In order to be lazier than Tim Cook you would have to lack a pulse.

      In order to be greedier than Tim Cook you would have to weigh over 800 pounds and be serving 20 years for embezzling billions.

      In order to be more incompetent than Tim Cook, you would have to be retarded and born with two left hands and two left feet.

  1. Maybe Democrat Debbie Wsserman Schultz could explain how she employed an illegal alien Pakistani to oversee all the House Democrat computers and how that person copied all the information on their machines for a few years, before leaving the country to avoid investigation. Or maybe someone could explain how Hillary ran a server of her own putting all her emails outside the government secured system. This server was located in a bathroom and was totally unsecured. Nah, better to lecture Apple on how to deal with routine software bugs.

    1. To be fair, Kent, there is no evidence that the Clinton private server was hacked, although the official State Department servers were. It was a bad idea, obviously, but it had the unintended consequence of keeping those messages more confidential rather than less.

      The law must have changed since I was in law school. Back then, we didn’t talk about compensating people for a defective product absent at least some evidence of financial damages to a class of consumers. What are the damages from having the microphone turned on during the brief period between when the phone starts ringing and when it stops?

      1. To be fair an unsecured server procured and operated by private employees – not federal IT – is 100% illegal and put all of our information at risk. It is a criminal felony and Hillary should have gone to jail years ago. Military personnel have gone to jail for a tiny infraction that exposed almost nothing while Hillary did this purely to avoid FOIA oversight. She is one disgusting corrupt crook.

          1. Colin Powell never recommended or used a private server. He may have had a private email address, like yahoo or aol. But he did not install a private server unsecured and run by private hacks.

        1. Uh oh, Kent. Speaking the truth around here about Democrat VIOLATIONS will only invite defensive responses that ignore REALITY. That’s to be expected and just another day but one does wonder how bias blind and ill informed one can be. 🙄

          You are correct regarding Powell and Clinton’s illegal server. No amount of false or deflective responses will EVER change the facts. Right on, Kent… 👍🏻

      2. “To be fair, Kent, there is no evidence that the Clinton private server was hacked, although the official State Department servers were.”

        To be fair, USER, there is no evidence Clinton private server was EXAMINED by the FBI or anyone else in the Obama era justice department. She did not allow it and Comey and other justice officials capitulated and did NOTHING.

        Three reasons:
        1- Do nothing to damage Clinton presidential run.
        2- Do nothing to find evidence of a criminal felony when Clinton and her paid cronies maintained an illegal private server and above all — do not investigate if it was hacked similar to State Department severs.
        3- Do nothing to damage Clinton presidential run.

        Not to mention smashing Clinton Blackberries with a hammer; acid washing hard disks, “like with a cloth” and a host of other Clinton FALSE naive excuses when breaking the law. The BIG LIE: I innocently made it easy and did all those things for:

        1- the state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty.

        Hogwash! Certainly a lot of effort and difficulty was immediately applied after the story broke of Clinton’s illegal server to ERASE THE EVIDENCE and protect the Queen of DISHONESTY.

        We can always count on you for a Democrat defensive half-truth. Did you send your resume to the New York Times, yet?…

  2. All this over a company with a (if that much) 15% market share… and yet not a word about every bug-ridden release of Windows over the decades.

    If anything that involves Apple were an auto accident, politicians (and others) would be ambulance chasers.

    1. I find it refreshing that after several years of technical incompetence, some new House members actually understand tech. For a nice change, maybe the USA will have informed legislators able to update the archaic telecom regs that companies flount today.

  3. Oh? Are they also demanding answers from Microsoft regarding God only knows how many security flaws that have costs, private and public, in the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars? Answers from Google regarding God knows how many rooted Anroid devices? Shut the fuck up and DO OUR BIDDING.

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