With iOS 12, Apple subtly added a few changes to the operating system that allowed users to turn their AirPods into hearing aids, utilizing the Live Listen feature. It’s a pretty nifty feature that picks up the surrounding audio via the microphones present on the AirPods, enhances it, and delivers it through the speakers present on the AirPods. According to Apple, the feature is not just meant for the ones with hearing impairments and can also be used by people to listen to conversations in noisy surroundings.
Up until now, the Live Listen feature was used either used by people to listen to conversations in noisy surroundings or by people with hearing impairment. However, soon after a tweet went viral on Twitter, people started to look at the Live Listen feature as a way to eavesdrop on other people. In the tweet, the person has attached a screenshot of his device, explaining how the Live Listen feature can be used to eavesdrop on someone present in the room.
If u have AirPods ?, u can press “Live Listen” to “On” and leave your phone in the room with someone and u can hear what they saying, thank me later? pic.twitter.com/fC6KYmqpB4
— arnold (@arnoldcrndo) January 9, 2019
Taking into consideration, some of the comments on the above-mentioned tweet and a few comments on the similar subject on Reddit, all that a user needs to do to use their AirPods for eavesdropping is, pair their AirPods with their iPhones and turn on the Live Listen mode. Once that’s done, they need to keep their iPhone (the one connected to the AirPods) at the location where they need to listen to the conversations. Now, when someone in the room engages in a conversation, the iPhone present in the room picks-up on the audio and sends it to the connected AirPods.
Using an accessibility feature like Live Listen, for anything apart from its intended purpose, doesn’t seem to be the right thing to do ethically or morally. And it’s something that Apple surely does not want its users to do. Considering how sincere the company is when it comes to user privacy, it would be worth looking out for their take on this issue.