European Commission trustbusters eye Siri and other voice assistants

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European Commission trustbuster Margrethe Vestager has Siri in her sights.
Do voice assistants like Siri give companies an unfair advantage?
Photo: ECR Group/Flickr CC

Does the voice data harvested by voice assistants like Siri give tech giants an unfair marketplace advantage? Lawmakers in Europe are currently pondering that exact question.

A European Commission investigation into the matter will look at whether this data is being used to stifle competition and maintain the position of companies like Apple and Amazon in the marketplace. This most notably relates to the rapidly expanding constellation of smart, connected devices.

Siri activated by ‘a city’ or ‘OK, Jerry’ reveals study of false wake words

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Siri Lights
Accidental wake words affects all the major smart assistants.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

“Hey Siri” can be inadvertently activated by other wake words including “A city,” “Hey Jerry,” and more, reveal researchers from Germany’s Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the Bochum Max Planck Institute.

Siri’s far from the only voice assistant with a weakness when it comes to false triggers, however. The study compiled a list of over 1,000 words that can accidentally activate different A.I. assistants.

Apple keeps throwing money at making Siri smarter

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Siri Alexa in voice report
Apple’s latest acquisition aims to give Siri better data to work with.
Photo: Apple

Apple purchased Inductiv, a Canadian company that focused on using artificial intelligence to clean up data. They created HoloClean, which was designed to get useful predictions from “noisy, incomplete, and erroneous data.”

The employees of Inductiv joined the team developing Siri, Apple’s voice-driven AI assistant, according to Bloomberg.

Ireland’s data protection boss questions Apple over Siri privacy

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Siri Lights
How private are your conversations with Siri?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission is questioning Apple over privacy concerns raised by an ex-contractor who transcribed users’ Siri requests in an effort to improve the voice assistant’s functionality.

Former Apple contractor Thomas le Bonniec this week said Apple should be “urgently investigated” over Siri data collection. It seems that the EU’s data protection authorities are listening.

Former contractor wants Apple investigated for Siri’s ‘massive’ data collection

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HomePod siri
Ex-contractor's job was to transcribe Siri conversations.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

A former Apple contractor says that Apple and other tech giants continue to ignore and violate “fundamental rights” with their “massive collection of data.” And he wants them investigated for it.

Thomas le Bonniec is one of the ex-Apple contractors whose job involved listening to users’ Siri recordings. News of the practice broke last year, but this is the first time le Bonniec has gone public.

Apple AI experts work to solve big speech-translation problems

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Translation Unsplash
Machine translation isn't easy. But Apple's working to solve it.
Photo: Romain Vignes/Unsplash

Apple is seemingly looking to step up its work in speech translation, showing one more way that Cupertino is looking to incorporate cutting-edge approaches to artificial intelligence into what it does.

In a recent paper, published to the pre-print server arXiv, two Apple research scientists describe the challenges in the field, carrying out a fundamental survey of the problems with current speech translation.

No, they don’t have a magical solution. But the fact that Apple gave them such a task suggests the company takes seriously the need to hone its tools in this area.