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Apple suspends Siri eavesdropping program in wake of privacy scandal

The HomePod captured more inadvertant Siri recordings than other devices like the iPhone. (Source: Apple)
The HomePod captured more inadvertant Siri recordings than other devices like the iPhone. (Source: Apple)
Apple has suspended a controversial Siri grading program that allowed contractors to listen to recordings of customers using the voice recognition software. The purportedly privacy focused company was caught out by a whistleblower who revealed details of the program that raised serious user privacy concerns.

Apple has suspended its controversial Siri grading program that saw contractors given access unbeknown to users of their voice recordings to assess the effectiveness of the voice recognition software. The revelation of the program’s existence by a whistleblowing contractor was a major embarrassment for the company which touts privacy as a key point of differentiation between itself and Android. Not only were deliberate activations of Siri being assessed, so too were accidental recordings Siri captured completely unbeknownst to users that included sex acts and private conversations with medical practitioners, among other sensitive material.

In its latest statement on the matter, Apple had this to say:

We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy. 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.

Among the criticisms leveled at Apple, it isn’t clear in its current privacy disclosures that this practice was being undertaken by the company. It is something that both Amazon and Google engage in as well to improve their voice recognition services, but at least in those instances, users can opt out of having their recordings saved. Apple was quiet about whether it too participated in similar activities with the assumption being that it didn’t, or if it did, would be much more transparent about its activities. While it has now taken appropriate steps to address the matter, its reputation as being somehow different to other tech giants on privacy has taken a severe battering.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 08 > Apple suspends Siri eavesdropping program in wake of privacy scandal
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2019-08- 2 (Update: 2019-08- 2)
Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - News Editor
I have been tech-obsessed from the time my father introduced me to my first computer, an Apple ][. Since then, I have grown to enjoy exploring and experimenting with any computing platform that I can get my hands on – I am the definitive early adopter! I have always been interested in how we can use technology to shape and improve our lives, most recently using it to record, mix and master my debut record, Acuity – Nature | Nurture out now on Spotify.