Apple apologizes for Siri spying, pledges privacy fixes

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Siri
Going forward, no one will listen to what you say to Siri unless you approve it.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

A revamp of Apple’s program that had people monitoring Siri voice commands for quality control will soon ask users to opt-in first, and only Apple employees will be listening.

“We realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize,” the company said in a statement.

Not just Siri was listening

Apple admits it made recordings of people talking to the Siri voice-control system. Some of these were listened to by outside contractors to improve how well Siri recognizes what users say. That practice has been temporarily stopped, and the contractors were let go.

It will resume in the fall, but the company made multiple promises to respond to user concerns:

“First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.

“Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.

“Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.”

Siri and Privacy

Despite this current controversy, Apple continues to insist that its voice-control system protects user privacy.

The company points out that voice commands are processed on Apple servers, but they aren’t associated with the user’s Apple ID or phone number. A random identifier is used instead. And any data that’s collected is employed only to improve Siri’s functionality. “When we store Siri data on our servers, we don’t use it to build a marketing profile and we never sell it to anyone,” Apple says.

Source: Apple