There has been a lot of debate surrounding the privacy of users while using smartphones. This prompted Apple to launch a series of privacy-focused ads since CES 2019. The company even went and bought a domain ” PrivacyIsImportant.com” to show that they do take privacy seriously.
As it turns out, while Apple was advocating the world about privacy, things got out of hand in their own backyard. According to a report published by The Guardian, Apple employees who check Siri for inaccuracies are also listening on user’s private conversations. This was reported to The Guardian by an anonymous source who claimed to have worked on it as a contractor for Apple. The source said that Siri activates when it hears “Hey Siri” but it also activates when it hears a similar-sounding word with the noise of a zipper. Not only that, but Siri is also activated when Apple Watch is raised and speech is detected.
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.
Apple, on the other hand, claims that it only reviews 1% of the recordings and no PII (Personal Identifiable Information) is shared with the contractors. This is an industry standard practice and one that has resulted in various privacy breaches and violations.
One thing that companies can consider is to notify users when their audio snippets are reviewed or give users an option to opt-out as these snippets are violating the privacy of the users. This is something that has to be considered by all the companies including, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft since all of them use the same practice to review audio recordings from the various personal assistant.