(The newspaper online) More and more people have discovered that the iPhone’s live listening function can be used to eavesdrop on others, and information on social media is provided on how.
By adding the “Hearing” shortcut in Control Center on your iPhone and connecting a compatible audio device, you can easily listen in on other people’s conversations. The function amplifies the sound by blocking out background noise, this way you can hear voices more clearly. If you connect your AirPods and leave your mobile phone in a room, you can also eavesdrop from a distance.
This causes a reaction from the Director of the International Department of the Data Protection Authority, Tobias Godin:
– This function simply poses a huge dilemma. Offending is easy, he says to Netavisen, and it is very dangerous.
The Live Listen feature is not marketed by Apple, but they do mention the feature in their iPhone User Guide. Many iPhone users have also found it as a shortcut already pinned to the Control Center, giving them automatic access.
– People with evil intent on eavesdropping always find a way to make it happen, but there is a problem that live listening is readily available on the phone. Godin says it may lower the threshold for some people.
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break the law
According to the head of the department, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority has not received any complaints from Norwegians who have been subjected to wiretapping. It is believed that there could be several reasons for this.
He might indicate that this isn’t much of a problem in practice, or it might be a sign that it’s hard for people to detect that he’s been wiretapped, he says.
Abuse of the hearing function violates the right to privacy and confidential communication, and can lead to very serious consequences if detected.
Eavesdropping can be seen as offensive, because you lose control of who hears what. Godin points out that wiretapping others can also be punishable, and the most serious cases carry a penalty of up to two years in prison.
He highlights one scenario in particular that could be punishment:
– There can be tangible consequences if, for example, the perpetrator wants to use your secrets against you or pressure you for information, he says.
It is intended as a hearing aid
First launched in 2018, Live Listen is, in fact, dedicated to helping people with hearing loss. On its website, Apple writes that the function can:
“…help you hear better in certain situations – for example when you are having conversations in noisy environments.”
Godin thinks the function is intended to help well, but it misses Apple’s stricter security.
It’s basically a very positive thing, but at the same time we believe that anyone who develops technology with a high potential for abuse should put security mechanisms in place. A suggestion regarding possible eavesdropping equipment is that the device beeps at regular intervals. He adds that this makes it difficult to monitor them in secret.
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