Apple stops listening to users’ Siri queries

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Siri Lights
No more humans listening to your Siri queries. Well, for now.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has stopped its process of listening to a certain portion of Siri recordings for “grading” purposes.

This is the result of a backlash against the privacy-oriented company, after news broke that Apple shares recordings made by Siri with third-party contractors.

“We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy,” Apple said in a statement. “While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.”

The UK’s Guardian newspaper recently reported on the way that a small percentage of Siri queries are listened to by humans. “A small portion of Siri requests are analysed to improve Siri and dictation,” Apple told the paper. “User requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID. Siri responses are analysed in secure facilities and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements.”

The Guardian claimed that Apple contractors had accidentally heard, “confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.”

Apple’s focus on privacy

Other companies like Google and Amazon also listen to a certain proportion of smart speaker enquiries. In the case of Apple, however, it’s no surprise that there would be greater levels of blowback. Apple has frequently talked up privacy as one of its defining values.

Apple hasn’t said when it issue the software updates letting users specify whether they wish to participate in the Siri training process. For now, to make doubly sure no-one’s listening, you can check out my colleague Charlie Sorrel’s recent article.

He details how to stop Siri logging and sharing your recordings. It’s a bit of a messy solution, but it’s the best users have. Well, at least for now.

Source: Bloomberg