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New York state is investigating Apple’s response to the FaceTime bug

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‘New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between their private communications and their privacy rights’

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

New York state Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation into the circumstances of Apple’s recent FaceTime bug. The bug, which allowed callers to listen and watch through a phone’s camera before a call was picked up, became public on Monday, and Apple has since disabled the relevant feature. The AG’s office will be focusing on Apple’s slow response to the bug, which was reported to the company more than a week before it became public.

“This FaceTime breach is a serious threat to the security and privacy of the millions of New Yorkers who have put their trust in Apple and its products over the years,” James said in a statement. “New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between their private communications and their privacy rights.”

The move comes just two days after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a consumer alert about the bug, warning citizens to disable FaceTime until a fix could be deployed. “The FaceTime bug is an egregious breach of privacy that puts New Yorkers at risk,” Cuomo said. “I am deeply concerned by this irresponsible bug that can be exploited for unscrupulous purposes.”

The bug has also attracted attention at the federal level where many legislators have been pushing for a comprehensive new data privacy bill. Shortly after news of the bug broke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called it “a clear violation of consumers’ privacy protections and a reminder of why we need comprehensive privacy legislation.”

A number of experts have questioned why Apple responded so slowly to the bug, pointing to possible problems in the company’s customer service and bug response programs. Still, with no conventional data breached using the bug, it’s unclear whether Apple would be liable under any existing New York state laws.