Apple users' most intimate and confidential moments are relayed by Siri to contractors

Apple users' most intimate and confidential moments are relayed by Siri to contractors
According to a report published by The Guardian, Apple's digital assistant Siri sends personal recordings to contractors. Similar to what Amazon does with its virtual assistant Alexa to improve its understanding of human language, these contractors grade Siri's performance. But some of the recordings that were captured by Siri and sent to be graded included couples having sex and others contained personal and confidential conversations about medical information. Besides Apple and Amazon, Google also does something similar with Google Assistant. But while Amazon and Google allow their users to opt-out of some uses of the recordings they generate, Apple doesn't.


Apple says less than 1% of the daily activations of Siri are passed along to the contractors who try to determine whether the assistant was activated on purpose or by accident. Siri is also graded on whether it was able to respond to the user's request or query, and whether that response from Siri was appropriate. Apple says that each snippet of audio from Siri graded by these third party firms runs for only a few seconds. It notes that "A small portion of Siri requests are analyzed to improve Siri and dictation. User requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID. Siri responses are analyzed in secure facilities and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements."

A whistleblower says that most accidental Siri activations take place on the Apple Watch and the HomePod


The Guardian's report cites a whistleblower working for one of the contractors who says that in too many cases, users are accidentally activating Siri allowing the contractors to hear sensitive personal information or activities. Besides mistaking certain words for the "Hey Siri" phrase that awakens the virtual helper, the whistleblower notes that sometimes the sound of a zipper will activate Siri. He also says that the most mistaken activations occur on the Apple Watch and the HomePod smart speaker. When the smartwatch is raised up and hears speech, it will automatically activate Siri. With 35% of the global smartwatch market, the Apple Watch is on a lot of wrists and is generating plenty of Siri-based content for the contractors to go through.


The whistleblower reveals that those working on grading Siri have quotas that must be met, so the goal is to go through the recordings as fast as possible. He also says that it could be possible to identify those whose voices can be heard on the Siri samples. "There’s not much vetting of who works there, and the amount of data that we’re free to look through seems quite broad. It wouldn’t be difficult to identify the person that you’re listening to, especially with accidental triggers – addresses, names and so on," he warns.

The company values its reputation when it comes to customer privacy and while it can hide behind the claims that what it is doing will improve the experience of using Siri, for some Apple customers it might come at too high a cost.

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36 Comments

1. cmdacos

Posts: 4259; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

"This is the reason why i stayed in walled garden...apple. I do trust their products and companies’ vision in terms of security and privacy. I hate sending ads, notifications and email about a product I once browse."- iloveapps/peaceboy

11. sgodsell

Posts: 7431; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Apple is going to update their privacy and security slogan again. "What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone, sometimes."

2. pogba

Posts: 112; Member since: Jun 13, 2018

Meanwhile they ban Huawei for fears of espionage.

17. AbhiD

Posts: 843; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

WTF does espionage and this has in common? These Huawei jerks man!

32. jacky899

Posts: 431; Member since: May 16, 2017

Imagine if Huawei had a similar program with data sent back to its servers in China. That would be instant claim of epsionage and evidence that Chinese government spying. Lol

38. Plutonium239

Posts: 1231; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

As far as I know Huawei doesn't have their own digital assistant, however that doesn't meant they haven't modified the Google assistant to perform this function.

3. apple-rulz

Posts: 2186; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Fake article. "Whistleblower" translates to disgruntled employee with an axe to grind. Even if true, still Apples walled garden is much more private and secure that Googles or anyone else's.

4. cmdacos

Posts: 4259; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Poor sad little dreamer. They are all the same...

14. lyndon420

Posts: 6822; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

He forgot about the kid that broke into apple's servers...

7. Vancetastic

Posts: 1539; Member since: May 17, 2017

Thank you, Mr. Trump!

9. oldskool50 unregistered

You're just clueless and stupid. A security flaw is a security flaw regardless of platform. IOS has security flaws. Pointing a finger at another platform that has security flaws is completely stupid and ignorant.

18. Mike88

Posts: 435; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

He is right, ios is like million times more secure than Android but this thing will not be forgiven. I'm turning off siri voice, bye siri. If Apple has started to do the same things as other oems it'll not be forgiven. People trust them for their privacy, they shouldn't break their trust. I think Apple had a deal recently with some govts and it has also started some bad practices

20. Tizo101

Posts: 566; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

You wish

25. sgodsell

Posts: 7431; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Break out your tinfoil hat Mike88. Because if your shifting blame over to the government or any others. Then make sure you don't use any iPhone, smartphone, tablet, iPad, or computer.

37. Mike88

Posts: 435; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

How do you people even say such things, do you've any idea what privacy is and why is it important? Privacy isn't about your private pics only. Privacy is a very broad subject which an android user who use a phone for listening to music or some pubg gaming can't understand. You've no idea about people concerned about their privacy about what they do at work and at home, their business strategies, people they contact and meet, their personal and data security. Things you'll never understand but which are so important. You think it's a joke to talk about privacy? It's a fundamental right for which we all should fight for instead of letting companies like Google and Facebook to play with it. You may like and support any brand or OS you like but don't let them play with your personal life in name of hate for another OS.

15. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1438; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

I'd say it paints a pretty realistic picture of how those companies would handle information like that. My wife works for a transcribing company and their staff get lengthy audio files with sensitive information and the staff is expected to delete those files afterwards, but there's almost no control on that. Footballers caught using drugs, sexual harassment cases, attorney-client conversations, its crazy how careless companies like that are with such sensitive information.

22. Vokilam

Posts: 1273; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Screw Hillary’s emails - she let Americans be slaughtered to death in Benghazi while they pleaded for help!

24. Macready

Posts: 1824; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

... according to Infowars, Hannity, Trump et al? Despite persistent accusations against President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, ten investigations — six by Republican-controlled congressional committees — did not find that they or any other high-ranking Obama administration officials had acted improperly.

35. tedkord

Posts: 17410; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

No, she didn't. The Republicans who refused to allocate the asked for security funds did. And isn't it funny, now that it's known that Ivanka and other Trump administration officials are breaking the exact same email law, suddenly its not important.

26. Vancetastic

Posts: 1539; Member since: May 17, 2017

Anything they disagree with is also immediately labeled “fake news” as well. Weak.

27. lyndon420

Posts: 6822; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

You should be thankful Trump is in charge...and not Hillary.

31. Vancetastic

Posts: 1539; Member since: May 17, 2017

I wasn’t happy with either one, for the record. There is, however, no way in hell I will ever be thankful about Trump being in charge.

36. tedkord

Posts: 17410; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Yes, let's be thankful that he puppet of an enemy nation is in charge, instead of the candidate they were so afraid of that they threw all their resources into getting her beaten.

33. tedkord

Posts: 17410; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

iRationalization at its finest.

5. Subie

Posts: 2383; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

"What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone!" Well, I think I'll still give Apple a passing grade on that ad as it didn't say anything about your Homepod or Apple Watch... ;)

13. sgodsell

Posts: 7431; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Apple just needs to add one word on the end of that slogan. ", sometimes!"

6. phonearenaviewer

Posts: 56; Member since: Jan 22, 2014

They all do it Apple just has been caught......yet

8. Ichimoku

Posts: 173; Member since: Nov 18, 2018

initmate?

10. VariableCheapskate

Posts: 168; Member since: May 29, 2019

lol@ anyone who thinks Apple doesn't sell your data like Google and Microsoft do.

12. lyndon420

Posts: 6822; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Obviously apple is interested in their consumer info just like everyone else. They aren't spending billions of dollars developing their own map data just to give it as a 'free' gesture to their users.

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