Apple Inc. apologised for a bug that let users of its FaceTime video-chat service listen in on people they contacted even before the person accepted or rejected the call.
The iPhone maker said it has fixed the flaw on its servers and will roll out an update to Apple’s iOS operating system next week.
“We sincerely apologise to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue,” Apple said in a statement released to several media outlets. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this process.”
Cupertino, California-based Apple mitigated the problem on Monday by remotely disabling Group FaceTime, but will need to release the software update for it to work properly again without the bug. Apple said at the time that an update would be available this week.
The bug was a black eye for Apple, which has made privacy and security key selling points for its devices. Earlier this week, Apple temporarily pulled important app-development tools from Google and Facebook after deciding the two companies broke its rules in monitoring users’ web traffic.
In an era when technology companies are coming under increasing scrutiny for privacy violations, New York officials seized on Apple’s disclosure and said they will investigate the company’s failure to warn consumers about the bug and its slow response.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook regularly criticizes internet companies for tracking people’s digital activities for advertising purposes. And yet, Apple takes billions of advertising dollars each year from Google’s search business, which is based on harnessing personal data for advertising.
For years, Apple allowed outside app developers to access, store, share, and sell users’ contact data, often without the consent of those people. Apple quietly closed that closed that loophole last year.
Group FaceTime calling was a key feature in last fall’s iOS 12 software update, which comes with the latest iPhones and iPads.