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Last month, a whistleblower who supposedly worked as an outside contractor for Apple leaked the information that Apple employed contractors to listen to Siri audio recordings. The aim was to improve Siri's responses.
The main issue here is that Apple hadn't warned Siri users that outsiders might listen in on their conversations.
Apple has now stepped up and issued an apology on Wednesday, detailing the changes with Siri moving forward.
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Apple's apology and what will change
Apple officially apologized online for its use of external contractors who listened to Siri voice recordings. The main point of contention was that no one was informed beforehand that "outsiders" would be hearing personal, and sometimes sensitive information. These contractors sometimes listened to up to 1,000 voice recordings per day. Apple had kept it under wraps.
"We realize we haven't been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize," said the statement.
Apple highlighted the main changes into three points:
- "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."
Up until now, the recordings were also stored, again, without the acknowledgment or approval from those who used Siri.
Why did Apple employ outside contractors?
As Apple's statement said, the company used outside contractors to listen to some of the audio recordings to improve the audio and voice recognition's capacities.
Apple Contractors Listened to 1,000+ Siri Recordings Per Shift https://t.co/MjvfRlFHWU by @julipulipic.twitter.com/FgInpiewuS— MacRumors.com (@MacRumors) August 23, 2019
By tuning in and listening to the recordings, the contractors could work on improving Siri's personalized tasks. By hearing the audio request and then turning it into a computerized transcription, the digital assistant's abilities could get faster and better.
The issue is that Apple had to store this information and then employ essentially strangers to listen to it - none of which had been explicitly agreed upon by the customer.
Now that Apple has set up some more regulations, let's hope that users will feel at ease again and continue using their digital assistant.