Making a bad thing worse: Apple’s FaceTime bug

Mistakes are bad, but it’s worse when there’s intent.


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A serious bug was found in Group FaceTime that allowed a caller to hear conversation and even get video before the other person picked up. This is a substantial black eye for Apple but don’t worry, someone is always around to try to make it seem even worse than it is.

Writing for The Atlantic, Ian Bogost says “FaceTime Is Eroding Trust in Tech.” (Tip o’ the antlers to @papanic.)

Oh, Apple’s FaceTime bug is what’s finally doing it? It’s not Google continuing to track people who turned off tracking or any one of the nigh uncountable slimy things that Facebook has done. It’s a FaceTime bug. Nnkay.

There are actually three titles to this piece. There’s the one above, then there’s the marginally true page title which reads “Apple’s FaceTime Bug, Explained” and finally the patently false URL slug: “apple-facetime-bug-you-cant-escape”. The first emergency fix for this was simply to turn off FaceTime on the device, which anyone can do, but Apple has since turned off group FaceTime at the server level.

It seems obvious to at least this furry observer that there is a market distinction between companies that actively try to subvert your privacy and those that try to protect it but, admittedly, made a very bad mistake. Callous conflation of these two things servers no one except those looking for others to help them flip over a cop car. And Bogost has a penchant for hyperbole where Apple is involved.

The paranoia will increase…

Here, let me help it.

Couldn’t the FaceTime exploit have been purposely added, as a backdoor for the government…

Yes, the government would love to know what you say about it right before it calls you. “Ugh, it’s those guys again.”

Dear Government Diary: My worst fears are true. Emily Nussbaum of Perth Amboy, NJ, is not the friend I thought she was.

Look, if the government wanted to spy on you, it’d be more thorough than that. And Apple is the only company that’s gone toe-to-toe with the government over protecting the privacy of its customers, even if they’re terrorists. So we’re supposed to believe Apple put in a back door for them?

…or for the lulz of a disgruntled engineer, some might wonder? Yes, that’s possible, if unlikely.

It’s really not possible, using our Earth logic. If we are using banana planet logic, however, other things we cannot rule out are: gremlins, the aliens from They Live and Gary.

Never rule out Gary.

The bug should also raise concerns about the ongoing drive to turn everything that once worked well into a less reliable and secure, if more convenient, computational equivalent.

Everything used to just work! We never had any problems! Our floppy disks never got stuck in drives, our Zip disks never got the click of death, our dial-up connections never disconnected when dad picked up the phone line… uhhh…

Is Bogost from Earth 2?

Also, it’s somewhat hilarious that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak literally got their start in tech by exploiting a flaw in telephones.

Look, this is a bad, bad, bad bug. There is no excuse for shipping something like this. Worse, it really looks like Apple sat on it for days and only did something about it when it was made public. There are very good things to criticize Apple about. Bogost instead runs about trying to start conflation conflagrations.

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