U.S. Committee Sends Letter to Tim Cook Asking for Answers About Group FaceTime Eavesdropping Flaw

The U.S. Committee on Energy & Commerce is now seeking answers from Apple over the Group FaceTime flaw that allowed people to eavesdrop on conversations.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) today sent a letter [PDF] to Apple CEO Tim Cook questioning the company about how long it took Apple to address the Group ‌FaceTime‌ flaw, the extent to which the flaw compromised consumer privacy, and whether there are other undisclosed bugs in existence.

facetime bug duo

"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."

The two representatives ask Apple to be transparent about the investigation into the Group ‌FaceTime‌ vulnerability, and the steps that are being taken to protect consumer privacy going forward. Apple has not been as transparent as "this serious issue requires," according to the letter.

Pallone and Schakowsky ask Apple a number of key questions, including the following:

  • 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?

Apple CEO ‌Tim Cook‌ will be expected to provide answers to the questions provided in the letter.

The FaceTime vulnerability came to light last Monday after details spread across social media and news sites quickly picked it up. The bug allowed a person to force a ‌FaceTime‌ call with another person, giving them access to the audio (and sometimes video) from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac without the person ever accepting the ‌FaceTime‌ call.

Apple disabled Group ‌FaceTime‌ on its servers to prevent the bug from being used, and the company is still working on an iOS 12.1.4 update that we are expecting to see this week.


While Apple addressed the bug after it went viral on social media, the company was informed of the issue at least a week before when a teenager discovered it and his mother attempted to contact Apple. Though she sent in multiple reports, they did not go to the right people, and Apple has since apologized and said it is committed to improving the bug reporting process.

Apple is already facing a lawsuit over the Group ‌FaceTime‌ issue and New York officials are also investigating.

Top Rated Comments

mozumder Avatar
29 months ago
Probably not a good idea to have a congressional hearing about every software bug..

Let Apple's track record about privacy speak for itself.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PS8409 Avatar
29 months ago
Seems a bit over dramatized.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thadoggfather Avatar
29 months ago
What a waste of time the letter is. Apple addressed it and the fix is being released soon.
They took over a week to respond to the formal complaint. That is not an acceptable grace period for 'privacy being top priority' in my view:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/technology/facetime-glitch-apple.html

I think Apple is throwing stones from a glass house, and this won't be the last hiccup of theirs related to privacy
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
29 months ago
Whoa, little fella, what are you doing outside of the PRSI?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
trip1ex Avatar
29 months ago
What a waste of time the letter is. Apple addressed it and the fix is being released soon.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dumastudetto Avatar
29 months ago
Why would anyone in authority concern themselves with customer privacy when they want backdoors inserted so they can spy on everyone with ease?
A more honest question would be why can't you create these flaws for us to exploit Mr. Cook?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
snapchat dark mode

Snapchat Rolls Out Dark Mode on iOS

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:17 am PDT by
Nearly two years following the release of iOS and iPadOS 13, which included native, built-in, and systemwide dark mode, Snapchat, one of the world's most prominent social media networks, has finally rolled out a dark mode theme for iOS users. Snapchat began testing a dark mode theme of its app design late last year with a small group of iOS users. Now, Snapchat says that as of this week, it...
netflix sign up

Apple Discussed 'Punitive Measures' Against Netflix for Dropping In-App Purchases

Wednesday May 5, 2021 11:03 am PDT by
As the Epic Games v. Apple trial progresses into its third day, Apple's internal documents and communications with various companies are continuing to surface, giving us some insight into the dealings that Apple has had around the App Store. Back in December 2018, Netflix stopped offering in-app subscription options for new or resubscribing members and instead began requiring them to sign up ...
iphone 12 preorder purple

Apple Begins Transition to Randomized Serial Numbers With Purple iPhone 12

Wednesday May 5, 2021 9:17 am PDT by
MacRumors previously reported about Apple's plan to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021, and this transition has now started with the new purple iPhone 12 model in multiple countries. With assistance from Aaron Zollo, host of the YouTube channel ZolloTech, we can confirm that the purple iPhone 12 released last month has a new 10-character serial...
airtag 1

AirTag Anti-Stalking Measures 'Just Aren't Sufficient' Says Washington Post Report

Wednesday May 5, 2021 6:03 pm PDT by
The safeguards that Apple built into AirTags to prevent them from being used to track someone "just aren't sufficient," The Washington Post's Geoffrey Fowler said today in a report investigating how AirTags can be used for covert stalking. Fowler planted an AirTag on himself and teamed up with a colleague to be pretend stalked, and he came to the conclusion that the AirTags are a "new means...
iphone 13 pro max dummy notch

iPhone 13 Pro Max Dummy Model Depicts Smaller Notch

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 13 models are expected to feature a slimmed down notch, marking the first major change to the TrueDepth camera system since it was introduced in the 2017 iPhone X. We're still months away from the launch of the iPhone 13, but Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy managed to get an iPhone 13 Pro Max dummy model that represents what we can expect from the new 2021 device. Dummy...
iPad Pro July Shipping

12.9-Inch iPad Pro Now Delivers as Late as Mid-July

Wednesday May 5, 2021 7:10 am PDT by
While the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is set to launch in the second half of May, orders placed today are estimated for delivery as late as mid-July on Apple's online store in the United States — some two months later. The new 11-inch iPad Pro is faring better so far, with some configurations available for delivery in the last week of May. The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro features a Liquid Retina XDR ...