Apple has issued a press release apologising about its use of contractors to listen to private Siri recordings after a Guardian expose.
It revealed that third party contractors would not only listen to Siri recordings but had also in their work heard drug deals, couples having sex and other intimate personal audio.
Apple said it referred to the process as ‘grading’ and that recordings were monitored “as part of our Siri quality evaluation process”. After public outcry over the Guardian report, whose source was described by the publication as a whistleblower for the contractor firm, Apple has confirmed that it suspended work with the company and reviewed its own data practices.
The result, Apple says, is that it will continue the grading program after it has made changes to its process. The company’s promises in full:
“First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.
Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.
Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.”
The main change is that Apple will no longer ever keep audio recordings, but it will use computer generated transcripts in the grading process.
Apple used to keep tight lipped when it came to PR crises but in recent years it has done well to quickly and publicly address any disquiet amongst its many users. The press release details how many Siri requests are handled and how much of the process is done on the device as opposed to personal data taken and stored on Apple servers.
While the company also used the opportunity to reiterate it does not use your personal data to advertise and also never sells it on, it does not change the fact that third party contractors could listen to what Apple had many times declared were completely private recordings.