Hill Presses Apple on Group FaceTime Surveillance Bug

Some high-profile Democrats are pressing Apple on a bug discovered in its Group FaceTime application, saying they were "deeply troubled." It was just the latest hit on an Edge community increasingly dinged-up in Washington.

Apple's Group FaceTime feature

Apple's Group FaceTime feature

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) teamed up on a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook Tuesday (Feb. 5), citing the security flaw—which was discovered by a teenager that could have compromised consumer privacy, particularly since it allegedly allowed third parties to access an iPhone camera and speaker even before they took a Group FaceTime Call.

They told Cook they did not think Apple had been as transparent about the issue as it could have been.

“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 told 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.”

To boost that transparency, they want answers to a number of questions by Feb. 19, including a timeline of its actions after the surveillance vulnerability was identified, how it is determining what privacy interests might have been violated and whether it would notify and compensate anyone for a violation, and whether there are other vulnerabilities Apple has identified and what it is doing about it.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.