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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59 Comments

1. monkeyb

Posts: 413; 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: 381; 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: 2028; 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

Posts: 1491; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

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: 7344; 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.".

10. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Except you knew what happens when you used Siri and you AGREED when you activated the service.

15. monkeyb

Posts: 413; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

Ummm. Who knew that Apple was going to send their private conversations to contractors?? And if you say it could be mentioned in their service agreement. Its not acceptable. This is a company that prides on its stance on consumer privacy.

17. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Every single one that had the curiosity to READ THE EFFING TERMS!!! What should Apple have done? Making a public statement to its users on the radio "hey, I have already told you this, but here goes again..."? btw, Apple sent nothing to 3rd parties; the contractors were doing everything in Apple's secured facilities.

19. Whitedot

Posts: 806; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Its not where its how and what it is done. Slowly but steady Apple's privacy buble is bursting. If apple didn't anything wrong they should not suspend the program. THINK.

21. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

That's a fallacy and my mind does not substitute the logic with fallacies.

23. Whitedot

Posts: 806; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

In the absence of logic it sounds like a self inflicted joke.

27. cmdacos

Posts: 4191; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Please detail how you know these contractors were working in Apple secured facilities. Also if everything was ok, why did apple suspend the service after getting caught? They could have just made their EULA more clear or even better, be more specific like Google does. You're defense of this company is laughable.

29. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

"Please detail how you know these contractors were working in Apple secured facilities." Because, for once, it is what... the contractors have said :)). Just like I told Whitedot, that's a logical fallacy; the terms of Siri are very clear about how Apple collects, use and dispose of data.

38. cmdacos

Posts: 4191; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

It's not clear or Apple wouldn't have to make changes. I highly doubt the contractors based in Ireland were operating out of the small tax haven office. You're responses are just assumptions and no more valid than mine.

43. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

What changes? I have both iOS 12 and 13 and they say the same thing. You are free to doubt all you want, that doesn't change the fact that the contractors have said that they worked in Apple's secured facilities.

41. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1418; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

So how did someone get away with thousands of audio samples? Clearly security was lacking, but that's nothing new when it comes to Apple.

44. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I don't know what samples you are talking about, but they couldn't have gotten them from Apple, because the contractors could have only plaid the audio samples inside Apple's facilities and had limited time to go through the them.

47. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1418; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

An employee of one of the companies that analyzed audio fragments from Apple, gave a large number to a newspaper. GlobeTech, a company that worked for Apple, also had access to location data and contact lists from users from whom the audio samples came. You are misinformed.

52. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Am I supposed to believe that Washington was the 1st president of USA just because it says so in dumb ass press? How can a company have access to something not even Apple's Siri division has access?!

59. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1418; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Apple has access to ALL of your data! Everything is linked to your Apple ID and you can bet that if the development of Siri needed it, Apple would provide that information. Maybe don't play so dumb.

61. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Because Apple is evil, right?

48. monkeyb

Posts: 413; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

Okay. I just went and read the terms and conditions and you are correct. I still have an objection as the average user such as myself trust these companies when they talk big about safe guarding our privacy and do not comb through all the terms and conditions of every single thing in our lives. Just like the battery saver option we are now given, “I wish” all these companies would give us an option to opt out of sharing our information right from the start.

53. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Thumbs up for reading the terms! I never said Apple is the perfect company as far as privacy is concerned, but it is one of the best we have. It can get better? Sure. Will get better? Who knows... I am also not ok with the data that's been collected by these companies - whatever it's called Apple, Google, Facebook or even the app of the pizza company - that's why I read carefully all the terms and I am very careful what services I use and, more important, HOW (I was lazy with Google and it managed to pinch some personal data - the level of resourcefulness that Google has managed to achieve in digging personal data is monumental, but it remains the best search engine, so we fight).

22. sgodsell

Posts: 7344; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The real problem is Apples false advertisement claims. "What's on your iPhone stays on your iPhone." Clearly Apple is a liar.

25. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

When the user activates Siri, the second thing he can read in Privacy section is the fact that what he is saying during the enrolment flow will be sent to Apple. So where is the false advertising? PS: technically, the voice is not on your iPhone ;).

32. oldskool50

Posts: 1491; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

Its not the point.

4. blingblingthing

Posts: 953; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

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

5. oldskool50

Posts: 1491; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

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: 6777; 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

Posts: 1491; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

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.

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