Apple launched AirPods in September 2016, along with iPhone 7. A recent update on all iPhones have lead to an interesting discovery regarding the AirPods.
This update allows the microphone in the phone to pick up the noises surrounding it. Live Listen is equipped to listen in a conversation in a noisy room or hear anybody speaking across the room. Live Listen has an on and off button. Live Listen can be turned on by tapping Settings > General > Accessibility > MFi Hearing Devices. Tap your AirPod under Devices and then tap Start Live Listen. In order to end the Live Listen tap Settings > General > Accessibility > MFi Hearing Devices. Tap your AirPod under Devices and then tap End Live Listen.
Live Listen can also be turned on and off through the Accessibility Shortcut. In order to add Live Listen to the Accessibility Shortcut, tap Settings > General > Accessibility > MFi Hearing Devices and turn on Control on Lock Screen.
This feature is basically wiretapping, which is illegal. Even law enforcements need a court order to be able to listen to a private conversations. Furthermore, the court order only enables the authorities to listen in for certain amount of time. With these tight regulations, the concept of any government wiretapping is controversial. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was passed by the U.S. government regarding wiretapping regulations to protect emails, and phone calls.
Jareen Mohammad said, “I don’t feel comfortable with random people listening in on my conversations. And I don’t even know how many people can hear my conversations, a lot of people own AirPods these days.”
When an individual is using the Live Listen to listen in on conversations if the parties involved are not aware of it. It is illegal and invasion of privacy. This feature also raises a question regarding if Apple is using this to record conversations to gather intel.