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By Sebastian Herrera
Apple Inc. has disabled the Walkie-Talkie app on Apple Watches after finding a security flaw that could allow a person to listen in on someone else's iPhone conversation without consent, the second eavesdropping-related glitch the company has moved to address in recent months as scrutiny of tech giants intensifies.
Apple didn't disclose the nature of the vulnerability but said that it temporarily disabled the app while it works to fix the issue. The company said it isn't aware of any instance where a user was harmed by the glitch, which it said requires specific conditions and sequences to be exposed.
The Cupertino, Calif., company said it learned of the problem through an online portal where customers can report issues with Apple products. The Walkie-Talkie app, which Apple implemented in its watches through the watchOS5 operating system, allows two users to send each other audio using a push-to-talk button.
"We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible," the company said in a statement. TechCrunch earlier reported the Walkie-Talkie app vulnerability.
Big technology companies are facing heightened scrutiny of their data-privacy practices and their market power, with representatives from firms including Apple are set to testify at antitrust hearings next week in Washington, D.C.
Apple said in June that it would add new privacy features to the iPhone with the release of iOS 13 this fall, including a tool allowing users to sign into iPhone apps without revealing personal information, such as an email address. It will also introduce a feature designed to make it easier for consumers to see how apps are tracking their location.
In January, Apple scrambled to fix a bug that allowed a user calling another person via the FaceTime app to listen in on conversations happening on the other end, even if the other user hadn't accepted their call. While it required several steps, the glitch could have been used to eavesdrop on rooms with unattended devices or to receive an unauthorized video feed from an iPhone.
While Apple eventually provided a software fix for the issue, the New York attorney general's office opened an investigation focusing on Apple's failure to warn consumers about the glitch, as well as its slow response to the problem. An Arizona teenager and his mother had reported the issue more than a week before Apple responded.
A representative for the New York attorney general's office couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the status of that investigation.
Apple later apologized for the flaw and said it would compensate the teen. The company didn't reveal the details of the payment.
Write to Sebastian Herrera at Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 11, 2019 15:39 ET (19:39 GMT)
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