By Kahini Iyer Jan. 29, 2019
Turns out, when you call someone on Group FaceTime, you can hear them even before they pick up. For Apple, this so-called “bug” is a potential goldmine in a new generation of social spying.
When you’re stuck dealing with the indignities of an off-brand Android, it can be hard to feel sorry for the iPhone crowd. When they try and send you forwards on iMessage instead of WhatsApp, or ask why you can’t just download the Backstreet Boys’ new album on Apple Music, it’s clear that these modern-day Marie Antoinette-lites are living in their own world.
Which is why, exclusively for those with iPhones and Macbooks, today has been somewhat alarming. Group FaceTime — essentially iOS’s version of a Skype conference call — allows multiple iPeople to videochat each other on their chosen iProduct, presumably to discuss which Genius bars serve the best caviar. The feature was introduced last October when iOS 12.1 finally dropped. But now, elite tech users all over the world will be forced to call each other one by one, reducing their efficiency by a good 5 per cent, because Apple has disabled the Group FaceTime feature after discovering a security bug.
Turns out, when you call someone on Group FaceTime, you can hear them even before they pick up, and this disconcerting spy-bug has likely been in effect for the past three months. Was it lost in last year’s churn of tech-gone-dystopian, like when Amazon’s Alexa was spontaneously recording conversations? Or the tragic Facebook security hearings in the US Senate that proved that deep down, billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is just another millennial trying to explain how the internet works?
Either way, the bug has finally been spotted and Apple is in the process of addressing the issue. Most iPhoners no longer have to worry about being awkwardly overheard — they just have to worry about all the times they might have been so far. Here’s where a chunk of you poor bastards frantically think back to when you went “ugh, not him again” before you cut someone’s call, when you really should be stressing over all the times you were having sex and didn’t even realise that your mom was trying to FaceTime.
Of course, all this fretting is fine if you’re a glass half-empty kind of person. But why is no one talking about the perks of the FaceTime bug?
Fifteen years ago, Mean Girls exploded onto our screens, and immediately became the noughties’ defining teen movie. But amid the pastiche of pink sweatpants and Kalteen bars was a scene that heralded the future of technology: the classic conference call between queen bitch Regina George and infiltrator Cady, who starts drama by getting Regina to diss her lackeys, Karen and Gretchen, while they’re secretly on a conference call.
Even in the bygone era of humble three-way calling, Mean Girls showed us how to get creative with the limited technology we have. From shady conference calls, we graduated to Facebook stalking, where we could mine everyone’s bio-data from their names. Then there was Instagram, whose geotagging feature became a creep’s delight.
But then we realised that, just like we could look up celebrities, or cute guys from the gym, 50 unknown Rajeshes, representing every state around the country and then some, could send us a deluge of fraandship requests. So we switched our profiles to Private, and the glory days of social media stalking have largely faded.
In this brave new communications landscape, enter Group FaceTime, complete with a bug that allows you to overhear someone just by calling their iPhone from your iPhone. You’ve basically got an elite dating app for those who are too rich to be on Tinder, but not desperate enough for Luxy. You can get to know someone as you hear their day-to-day life in progress, find out if they have pets or children, listen in on their plans to scuttle a dead body in Bandra Talao — and the only commitment you need to make is for the EMI with Flipkart.
In this brave new communications landscape, enter Group FaceTime, complete with a bug that allows you to overhear someone just by calling their iPhone from your iPhone.
Facebook and Instagram may be free, but do they give you the authentic experience of listening to your one-sided crush take a dump? And if you want to “match”, all you need to do is answer the FaceTime call to see your potential partner’s face. In our shallow, looks-obsessed dating milieu, it’s refreshing to think you could fall for someone without ever seeing them.
For Apple, who perpetually run the risk of being outpriced by more and more competitors, this so-called “bug” is a potential goldmine. And if anyone can brand a serious software fail into an exclusive dating app, it’s the company that sold us a tablet without any USB ports for 38,000 bucks. Call me, Apple marketing, and let’s embrace a new, post-Mean Girls generation of social spying.
Kahini spends an embarrassing amount of time eating Chinese food and watching Netflix. For proof that she is living her #bestlife, follow her on Instagram @kahinii.