updated 07:00 pm EST, Mon February 6, 2012
Bug keeps messages flowing to stolen iPhones
A flaw in the iMessage protocol that causes it to continue to route messages to an iPhone even after its SIM has been removed and deactivated has gotten the attention of Apple in a very direct way: a customer demand to be compensated for the problem, which the company has allegedly done. TheNextWeb reports that an unnamed customer who had her iPhone stolen but which continued to receive iMessages has now received an iPod Touch as compensation.
The flaw in iMessage pairing was recently inadvertently demonstrated when an Apple Store employee put his own personal SIM card into an iPhone that didn't previously have one for troubleshooting an unrelated issue for a customer. Even after removing the SIM card, the iPhone started relaying iMessages intended for the store employee to the customer's iPhone. Apple said the employee had "failed to follow store procedure," but it showcases the problem: once paired with a phone number, iMessage continues to push messages to that number regardless of any changes in status or even a complete deactivation of the SIM card.
After a protracted e-mail and telephone exchange with the iPhone theft victim, who happened to have had experience in the IT field and thus was technologically conversant, the matter was escalated from Apple's technical departments (which did eventually resolve the issue) to Apple Legal, where the company formally offered her an iPod Touch in compensation for the privacy breach and inconvenience involved in getting the issue taken care of.
The woman in question had her iPhone stolen in mid-November, but did not immediately wipe the iPhone, instead preferring to use it to help police locate the item when it turned up on a map. Sadly, authorities were unable to recover the iPhone and the location data disappeared shortly afterwards. The day after the theft, the woman had the SIM card deactivated as would be normal procedure. She also changed her Apple ID password and registered her new iPod Touch as the iMessage recipient.
Days later, friends of the victim mentioned that they were sending iMessages with no response, even though the status showed that the message was delivered. She called Apple support and they confirmed that the messages were still going to the stolen iPhone. After going through a series of steps meant to stop the flow of iMessages that were unsuccessful, the issue was finally resolved six weeks later in late December when an Apple engineering team "pushed code" to the stolen iPhone that fixed the problem. In some instances, users have found that toggling iMessage off then back to on also cleared up conflicts on where iMessages should be delivered.
Since the victim was unsatisfied with how long it had taken to resolve the issue, she was advised by the service representative to contact Apple Legal to pursue the matter further, which she did. The customer has remained unsatisfied with the compensation offered but did point out that at all times during the resolution process the agents she contacted were courteous and did their best to be helpful.
The story points to a bug in iMessage's ability to de-register old or outdated delivery information. After what has been learned from this unnamed customer, it's probable that Apple will eventually issue a fix and a standard, easy procedure for users to follow if they find themselves in similar circumstances. [via TheNextWeb]