Pretty scary stuff. A former contractor hired by Apple, according to a report, revealed that recordings from Siri—including of couples having sex—are regularly listened to by hired contractors, in a bid to “help Siri and dictation”. But these recordings are triggered by Siri mistakenly hearing the phrase, “Hey Siri”, which happens to all of us (hence, scary).
“There have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters and so on. These recordings are accompanied by user data showing location, contact details, and app data.”
While Apple says that data from Siri isn’t linked to any other data they may have, it’s worth noting that the contractor named the Apple Watch and HomePod smart speaker as the highest causes of these accidental recordings.
“You can definitely hear a doctor and patient, talking about the medical history of the patient. Or you’d hear someone, maybe with car engine background noise—you can’t say definitely, but it’s a drug deal… you can definitely hear it happening. And you’d hear, like, people engaging in sexual acts that are accidentally recorded on the pod or the watch.”
Listening to 1,000 recordings a day
Apple has supposedly suspended this practice of outsourcing this work to contractors, but a freshly terminated contractor in Cork, Ireland, has reportedly said that each employee was listening to 1,000 Siri recordings per day. While the contractor caveated this with the statement that Siri user IDs were kept anonymous, the issue here is a lack of transparency behind the whole practice.
“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.”
Apple says that data gained from Siri recordings is to “understand you better and recognise what you say”, but the Cupertino-based company doesn’t explicitly disclose the fact that the recordings are examined by actual human employees—which is perhaps the most disconcerting thing here.