Apple suspends Siri eavesdropping program in wake of privacy scandal
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.