SIRI recordings regularly sent to Apple contractors for analysis, claims whistle-blower

Brad Wilsonby:

Technology

Apple also seems to join the bandwagon with Google and Amazon for secretly sharing audio recordings of its users with contractors for further analysis, confirming the practice to The Guardian after it was brought to the outlet by a whistleblower. The person claimed that SIRI queries are regularly sent to Apple contractors for closer analysis, something that is not mentioned in Apple’s privacy policy. 

Reportedly the recordings are not linked with an Apple ID, but are several seconds long, containing personal information about users concerning their nature, and are associated with other revealing data such as app data, contact details, and location of the user. 

Like other companies, Apple did not reveal this until forced. The company claims that the user’s data is collected and analyzed manually with the sheer motive of improving its services and that all analysis takes place in a secure facility by employees bound by confidentiality contracts.

Apple said it only sends less than 1% of daily queries for analysis, whereas the company is constantly discussing the volume of SIRI queries. There are hundreds of millions of people who use SIRI regularly, making even the mere fraction of less than 1% a significant number of hundreds of thousands. 

As per the whistleblower, this small fragment of SIRI requests is chosen randomly, and it consists of numerous personal recordings that feature private conversations between business deals, sexual encounters, criminal dealings, and so on. 

There are some instances when activations of SIRI may have been accidental, and workers are trained to listen and identify closely if that happened. Queries that were created from accidental activation maybe a few seconds long and contain personal information, even if it’s not associated with a digital identity. 

It was revealed only last month when Google came out and confessed that it sends clips of users to be analyzed. Joining the team, Amazon was also found to be recording and storing users personal information, retaining it indefinitely in Alexa.  

It is reasonable to assume that the term “search queries” consists of recordings of search queries and it states that it shares these queries with third parties. However, it does not mention anything related to sharing the same data with strangers, nor can users opt-out from this to save their information.

Given Apple’s high beliefs about privacy and transparency, this seems like a loophole in their system which is deliberate and oversight.

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