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Science
12 Jan 2019

iPhones can be used for spying on people: Here's how

iPhone, iPads can be used for eavesdropping

Sometimes features introduced for something good can be exploited in unimaginable ways, leading to serious privacy concerns.

We've seen people freaking out over camera-equipped smart displays, and now, something similar is happening with Apple, thanks to a new iOS 12 feature called 'Live Listen'.

It has been designed to help people with hearing problems, but can easily be repurposed for spying.

Here's how.

In context

iPhone, iPads can be used for eavesdropping
What is Live Listen?

Feature details

What is Live Listen?

Live Listen is a tool to help hearing-impaired understand what somebody is saying, especially in a crowded space.

It uses the microphone of iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to capture and transmit sounds to AirPods, effectively turning the buds into hearing aids.

"Live Listen can help you hear a conversation in a noisy area or even hear someone speaking across the room," Apple claims.

Concern

But, Live Listen can also be used for spying

Worryingly, the accessibility feature can even be used for spying or eavesdropping on conversations, Twitter users have revealed.

One can leave their iOS device in a room with two people talking and hear what they're saying by using the AirPods.

As long as Live Listen stays on and the device rests in the targeted room, the whole conversation would be transmitted to the outsider.

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Here's what one said of the feature

Now, this raises serious privacy concerns

Issues

Now, this raises serious privacy concerns

We know Apple developed this feature with good intentions, but its second use raises some serious privacy concerns.

People, not to mention teens, can easily use the capability to learn about things they should not know or stuff that has been specifically kept from them.

Even stalkers/thieves can use something like this to dive into the lives, routines of their targets.

Live Listen only works when AirPods are on

Originally, Live Listen only worked with made-for-iPhone hearing aids. But, now, as and when AirPods are turned on, the connected iPhone/iPad shows an ear-shaped icon to use the feature. It even allows for adjusting sensitivity and pick up more or less sound.

Apple's comment

Apple has not commented on the matter

So far, Apple has commented on the possible ill-use of its Live Listen feature.

However, some users are raising alarms over the issue and noting that the feature could create problems for the company.

Hopefully, the Cupertino-giant will take note of the matter and push an update fixing the issue or maybe reducing its range so that audio doesn't go out of a room.

Ask NewsBytes
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Most asked questions

Will this feature work on iPads also?

How can we tackle this issue?

Will Apple fix this issue?

Will this work with old iPhones too?

More questions

Will this feature work on iPads also?

Asked on 12-01-2019 by Diya Singh

Answered by NewsBytes

Yes, this feature works with iPads also.

How can we tackle this issue?

Asked on 12-01-2019 by Ridhi Rangarajan

Answered by NewsBytes

As of now, the best way to keep people from snooping in is keeping an eye on the devices lying around in your room, especially those from Apple.

Will Apple fix this issue?

Asked on 12-01-2019 by Vivaan Jain

Answered by NewsBytes

The company has not commented, but we hope it will fix the problem with a future update.

Will this work with old iPhones too?

Asked on 12-01-2019 by Paridhi Trivedi

Answered by NewsBytes

Yes, every device with iOS 12 carries this feature, but it is advised to not use it for snooping in on people.

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