The Group FaceTime Glitch: Are We Being Watched?

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Ashna Satpathy In a world chock-full of technology — “i” this and “e” that — people have considerably less privacy than they did 50 years ago. Post a picture and within seconds, it is shared to the world, a fragment in the connected webs of a farfetched internet dimension. Privacy has turned into an illusion– virtually anyone can get ahold of information from behind an illuminated screen. Like it or not, the 21st century means people are watching, and you probably don’t know the half of it. Apple first launched Facetime in 2010, comprehensively changing communication as we know it today. Calling a person and actually seeing their face on a thin, Gorilla Glass phone screen, even if they are halfway around the world is one of the pinnacles of 21st century technology. However, if only we could do just this, but with more people. Through the phases of Oovoo, Houseparty, and Skype, Group Facetime has undeniably been highly anticipated. But the launch of this phenomenon was quickly overshadowed when a glitch regarding privacy surfaced. According to CNN, “A person could exploit the glitch to hear live audio on another other person’s phone, even though the recipient had not accepted the FaceTime call. In some cases, the bug could also show live video of the other person if they pressed a volume button to dismiss the call.” The glitch was discovered by 14-year old Grant Thompson, who will be compensated by Apple. “The glitch certainly doesn’t help Apple’s image. It makes me think about the Airpod glitch too that may still work,” said Sophomore Eli Aronson. “I think privacy with Apple, Google, Alexa, and other forms of interactive technology will grow over the next decades as a bigger topic of debate” Sophomore Emily Hesby thinks “it’s definitely scary that people can listen to things that are private. We are really fortunate that we have this technology that allows us to talk to people face to face, but people listening to our conversations is really scary” Group facetime was soon pulled from the the latest iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas. 9 days after, Apple fixed the glitch by releasing iOS 12.1.4 and macOS Mojave 10.14.3. Glitches like these beg the question: who is watching and when? According to Huffington post, the government’s’ spying ability is much more limited than companies in the private sector, who can also sell the information they find. It is common to find ads for things that you have recently looked up, and this is because the main goal of these companies is to sell products through cookies— cookies explained…. The government and the private sector can “track the websites you visit and make your experience smoother by remembering your passwords and items you’ve viewed while online shopping, for example. The data gleaned from these cookies gets fed into huge databases; market analysis companies are getting better at connecting your surfing identity with your offline identity—for a profit,” says Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst at the ACLU. When topics such as these come up, computer cameras are often the first thing that come to mind. But hackers and predators aren’t the only culprits. David Bakke, a Money Crashers tech expert explains that “it was recently reported that the FBI can access your webcam in a remote fashion – they can turn it on if they want, as well” (Huffington Post). Sophomore Peter Jones says,  “I’ve never been particularly concerned by conspiracy theories regarding some kind of higher entity— be it the government or Apple —watching the lives of citizens through their technology, mostly because I imagine that a big corporation couldn’t care less about what I’m up to on a daily basis” Emily shares similar views. “I don’t really believe in it that much. I’m not the kind of person to freak out about the government watching us through our computers, so I don’t put tape over my computer camera or anything.” Regardless of your thoughts on the subject, it is important to be aware of the problems that pertain to the technology we interact with everyday. You never know who could be watching and what they are doing with information they are gathering. Take control of your privacy to the extent that you feel comfortable, and most importantly, be safe with what you choose to do online. Below is a helpful link that was mentioned in the article regarding this topic: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/government-surveillance_n_5084623.html https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/07/tech/apple-facetime-bug-fix/index.html]]>