Former Apple contractor says he listened to 1,000 Siri clips a day without consent

Former Apple contractor says he listened to 1,000 Siri clips a day without consent
Last month, we told you that Apple, like Amazon and Google, had third-party contractors listening to customer's interactions with its virtual digital assistant. Apple, like the other companies, claimed that it needed to do this to make sure that Siri understood the tasks it was asked to undertake and that it responded appropriately. The recordings were graded and the contractors also had to determine whether Siri was activated on purpose or by accident.

The problem is that Siri can be accidentally activated; the sound of a zipper will sometimes be mistaken by the AI-powered assistant as a wake word. One whistleblower said that the Apple Watch often activates Siri by mistake and can record up to 30 seconds of audio. As a result, Siri occasionally sent recordings of users' most intimate moments to these contractors. Other recordings heard by these third-party workers included Siri users discussing personal medical issues with their doctors.

Apple's customer's conversations with Siri were sent to third-party contractors without their consent


At the time, Apple sought to downplay this news by claiming that only 1% of daily Siri activations were passed along to the contractors. The company has suspended the program for now, and a report by the Irish Examiner (via iDrop News) indicates that Apple's decision to freeze the program has led to the termination of 300 workers at one Irish company. The firm, called Globetech, sent out letters to these employees. One former Globetech employee now laid-off said, "My colleagues are mostly young people from Cork who now have no job. This also includes dozens of people who have come from Canada, Australia, and mainland Europe."


This same person said that employees were supposed to listen to 1,000 recordings from Siri during each shift. He added that each recording was only a few seconds long, and mostly contained commands said to Siri. However, the former Globetech employee admitted that "occasionally we would hear personal data or snippets of conversations." He went on to say, "I understood the reasons why the company was doing it but I could see why people would feel it was a breach of privacy because they weren’t telling people. I think the lack of consent was the issue." Both Apple and Globetech stated that the identity of every Siri user that was heard on the recordings was anonymous. Globetech CEO Kevin Kelly said, "This is a difficult situation for everyone involved. The nature of our business means that the majority of our employee contracts are fixed-purpose and are linked to client requirements and project lifecycles."


Apple has prided itself on its ability to protect the privacy of iPhone users. After it was discovered last year that Facebook had allowed the profiles of 87 million subscribers to be sold without consent to Cambridge Analytica (and was punished by the FTC with a $5 billion fine), Apple CEO Tim Cook repeated a number of times that the company would never make its customers the product. While no one can be upset at Apple for trying to improve Siri, they can be upset that Apple passed on these snippets of recordings to companies like Globetech without its users' consent. And remember, Globetech was just one of the companies that Apple had been paying to grade Siri's responses.

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18 Comments

1. monkeyb

Posts: 414; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

As an iPhone only user since a decade I think that listening to conversations without consent is disgusting. Same thing goes for all the other voice assistants and companies doing the same thing. Hope they get heavily fined by all the governments in the world.

2. Alcyone

Posts: 610; Member since: May 10, 2018

If any fine is levied against companies, it'll probably be of very little effect. I'd not be too surprised if certain government agencies were interested in such happenings. Conspiracy theories, some will say I'm suggesting. But, whats stopping the government agencies from using this as a means to prevent "terrorist" behavior? Means to an end.

3. ph00ny

Posts: 2074; Member since: May 26, 2011

Eventhough we're all in uproar about it but there is probably a fine print in regards to information sharing somewhere in EULA or one of many change applied to the EUA. Otherwise, this will be a huge fine on Apple's end with possibility of class action lawsuit.

6. oldskool50 unregistered

Apple says what's on your devices stays on your device. If their EULA says they will do such, then them voicing otherwise would be misleading customers and false advertising which is illegal. So yes they can still face lawsuit. Just like they are being sued for lying about slowing down their phones. Then when your brought the bones in, they lied so you would buy another. You cant justify this sleazy company. Just remember this fact bruh. ALL CORPORATIONS ARE EVIL. Money is the root of all evil and because they all need money, they will do anything they can to get it, just like anyone else. Corporations are people too. Have t you heard that? Well what do people do? They lie. They lie just like their father the Devil. When ANY corporation says they are not doing something ot is doing something, I can assure you will 100% certainty they are doing the total opposite. They will always out themselves/money first. Always! To believe ANY corporation, whether for profit or non-profit ever has your best interest in view, is to believe the dinosaurs are acrually 65M years old.

60. sgodsell

Posts: 7607; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Yeah, it is now false advertising on Apple's part. I bet they won't make anymore billboard ads that say "What's on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.".

4. blingblingthing

Posts: 986; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.......... Or a contractor's work profile.

5. oldskool50 unregistered

The whole premise of voice assistants is completely stupid. First off its software that has to be programmed. How? Well it has to listen. At some point it's kinda obvious someone physical has to listen, because the data is needed to program the software. Nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is how Apple is such a liar, just like their frikkin fanboys. Such info should have been in the EULA. If you even use a voice assistant, you didn't give a rap about privacy anyways. Tour voice is being recorded. Names, address, phone. Understand and as another article stated, while you are in intimate situations. If this was Samsung, the Apple fans would be shouting from frikkin largest known star with hate. Where are they now? Where you at Midan, Leo, AppleRulz and Kiko007. Oh wait, to these fans, Apple can do no wrong. Hah! Apple continues to lie and the fans continue to point fingers at others as if Apple is some saint. What a bunch lying hypocrites along with the delusional fanclub. Apple fan by definition should not be sheep. It should be more blunt. Apple fan is definitely as a person who lack the simplest of common sense and will. I've anything Apple tells them, they've willing to pay exorbitant prices for handicapped products and justify that prices by claiming everything you have is gimmicky and not needed, is a person who will lie and e d the truth to defend and justify the actions of Apple regardless of facts or criticisms. They lied about their bendy phones, bendy tablets, busted macs, data breaches, batteries issues, connectivity issues, they lie in court, they lie in public and they lie about what they are actually selling you. So much for the customer is not the product. As long as you are a customer, you are their product regardless of what company and what the product is. Once you buy it they basically own you. Trying to lie and use gloss over word and double tongue speak is how Apple dupes people who are basically gullible and stupid. I rarely ever use voice assistants, and now I won't ever. Goodbye Alexa.

7. lyndon420

Posts: 6915; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Dude...you need to chill the f out. And do some spellcheck...good god are you drunk or something techie??

63. oldskool50 unregistered

Either argue what I said as being wrong or right. You are not my teacher. And its obvious my spellcheck is busted. Many of those corrections in spelling happen after I press to comment.

9. Demo-jay

Posts: 94; Member since: Feb 13, 2018

This comment section was so professional until this dude so called “techie”,started commenting..go get laid dude..u are obsessed

33. oldskool50 unregistered

Seriously? That's the best you can do? Whine like little fruitcake? Really with all these senseless trolls, you whining because someone here talks sense and isnt just dropping stupid oneliners? You dont like it, you can leave, you can skip or maybe since you're here you can go get a life. Anyone who tells someone to go get laid, is a complete an utter fool. You just got here and you talking about someone you don't even know. "The comment section was so professional." That I'd a complete lie. With all the Apple trolls here? Really? I just got through talking about people like you. People who have to lie or exaggerate the truth. Hey...put the phone down while crossing the street. You might get hit by a car.

13. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1284; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

The testing, grading things are JUST lame excuses.. Breaching customers' privacy is a very big business. But saying a lot and even showing boards about privacy and breaching the same is ridiculous...

14. NZred

Posts: 47; Member since: Aug 19, 2019

I look forward to your follow up article that attempts to justify this.

28. wesley.

Posts: 217; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Bring a class action lawsuit! They should not even be recording conversations. Internal testing should be enough to improve the service away from the public, not recording and then listening in on private conversations.

31. Vancetastic

Posts: 1869; Member since: May 17, 2017

Well, uh, oops!

36. TBomb

Posts: 1705; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I think the real reason people get riled up about this is that Google does the same thing but Google is the big bad wolf of data. Yes, your data stays anonymous, but it's still being listened to by someone. I believe if you do a Google search, your data doesn't turn into a "John Doe searched _______" it stays as a "Account Number 3453456454564 searched _______". Your account number is used to aggregate results so they can find trends and hopefully return better results. It's not there to learn your name. Apple sending out Siri convos is similar. However, Apple SORT OF misleads in its advertising by being the privacy stronghold in the industry, but they're still sending info out. Even if it was done by Tim Cook himself, it's still your info being received by someone who isn't you.

58. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1485; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Google also makes it very clear the first you use Assistant, that it can use this information and audio recorded for improvement of Google Assistant and you get the option right there and then to deny them the right. Seems to me Apple hasn't made the same effort.

40. JCASS889 unregistered

You all are obsessed, don't like a phone don't use it, be smart with your data. You all need to get lives, especially the people with over 7000 comments.... Dude go outside.

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