Apple Temporarily Disables Apple Watch Walkie Talkie Over Eavesdropping Concerns

Apple has temporarily disabled the Walkie Talkie app on the Apple Watch after it discovered an issue potentially allowing anyone to listen to users without consent.

According to a new report from TechCrunch, the action is temporary and was taken to allow Apple time to fix a security vulnerability that could have let an attacker eavesdrop on the iPhone paired to the Apple Watch, though there’s been no evidence to suggest the exploit had yet been used in the wild.

Apple provided the following statement to TechCrunch:

We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible. Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent. We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.

The bug was reported to Apple through its security portal, but there’s apparently no evidence that it was exploited before the company was alerted.

Apple introduced the Walkie-Talkie app last year as part of the watchOS 5 update. The app allows users to chat back-and-forth with other Apple Watch owners. Unlike an actual walkie-talkie, the app functions (or functioned) regardless of the distance between you and your friend.

This is the second security issue Apple reacted to this week — it also removed a feature in the Zoom conferencing app over a flaw that allowed people’s webcams to be turned on remotely. And Apple disabled its own Group FaceTime video chat service in January after a Fortnite-playing teenager found a bug that could turn any iPhone into a hot mic.