Since September last year, the actor and author Rachel True has been unable to access her iCloud account. Phone calls, chats and emails to Apple support have not led anywhere, so at the end of February she started writing about the problem on Twitter - and the response has been illuminating.
Based on iCloud crash reports, the fault seems to lie in Apple's code and the way it handles True's last name, a conclusion shared by many developers commenting on social media.
Anyone else getting this error from Apple iCloud ? In past or now?— Rachel True (@RachelTrue) February 27, 2021
I’m 6 months deep freeze & looking for any help.
I rem dead coding languages like kobalt.. & this seems like an Apple coding issue — not hardware pic.twitter.com/05EJmG3d6Y
Apple has evidently not protected the input in the last-name field on iCloud so that whatever you write is interpreted as text only; this means the name "true" is wrongly interpreted as the value of a Boolean variable (1/0, true / false). Another code then sees that the program is trying to give the variable last name a value of a type other than text string, and crashes.
The publicity seems to have had an effect where regular contact with Apple support did not, and in a follow-up tweet on Saturday, True wrote that Apple has promised to resolve the situation.
Several commentators have pointed out the resemblance of this tale to an old XKCD joke about a parent giving his son a bizarre name that deletes the school student database. In True's case, the problem only leads to a crash, but these kinds of "incorrect format" errors can lead to all sorts of security problems.
This article originally appeared on Macworld Sweden. Translation by David Price.