Apple FaceTime bug lets you listen in on people you call, even if they haven't picked up their iPhone

  • A bug in FaceTime lets you listen in to the audio if you try to call someone — even if they don't pick up.
  • You first video call someone then try to add yourself to the group call.
  • The FaceTime bug seems to be a huge privacy problem.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple launch event in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., October 30, 2018. 
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple launch event in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., October 30, 2018. 

There's a FaceTime bug that lets you hear through someone else's iPhone, even if they haven't answered your phone call. It was previously reported on Twitter by user Benji Mobb and reported by 9to5Mac.

CNBC tested it and verified that it's a real bug. I tried placing a video call to my editor from my iPhone using Apple's FaceTime app. Then, before he picked up, I used the menu option to add somebody else to the call and, as 9to5Mac's directions state, I added myself to the call. Suddenly, I could hear my editor, even though he never picked up. We continued having a conversation while his phone only gave him the option to answer. There was no indication that the call had already gone through.

The Verge reports that, if the person you're calling tries to end it by tapping the power button on their phone, it sends video but no audio. That means the person calling you can see a video of you or your surroundings as if you'd answered the call. I replicated this with a friend.

This bug seems to rely on the FaceTime Group Call feature, since you're trying to add another person to the call. Group FaceTime launched last year.

There's obviously a big privacy concern here. You could theoretically call anyone with FaceTime and, using the steps above, listen in on their conversations.

Apple, which is scheduled to report earnings on Tuesday afternoon, said a fix is coming this week. "We're aware of this issue and we have identified a fix that will be released in a software update later this week," a spokesperson told CNBC. It also deactivated Group FaceTime to prevent people from exploiting the bug before it releases a fix.

In the meantime, and to be extra safe, the fastest fix right now is to just turn off FaceTime. Here's how:

  • Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Choose FaceTime
  • Toggle FaceTime to off.