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Apple contractors often hear private information on Siri recordings

By Cookie Monster - on 27 Jul 2019, 10:53am

Apple contractors often hear private information on Siri recordings


Apple's handling of user information is coming under scrutiny after an employee shared that Siri recordings are actually listened to by humans. 

The whistleblower told The Guardian that Apple contractors working on Siri recordings "regularly" hear private information such as drug deals, medical data and people having sex. The whistleblower expressed concerns about the lack of disclosure on human oversight of these recordings and the frequency at which extremely sensitive personal information is accidentally picked up. 

“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.”

Sometimes, “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.”

While contractors are ancouraged to report accidental activiations as "a technical problem", there are apparently no specific procedures in place to manage these sensitive recordings. In addition, the high turnover rate of the contractors working on Siri recordings raises fears that someone with malicious intentions could misuse the information.

In response to The Guardian's report, Apple states that a very small random subset (less than 1% of daily Siri activations) are used for quality control or "grading" and that those used are usually only a few seconds long. 

“A small portion of Siri requests are analysed to improve Siri and dictation. User requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID. Siri responses are analysed in secure facilities and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements.” 

Apple's privacy policy also states that certain information such as name, contacts, music you listen to, and searches are not associated with the user's Apple ID, but rather with the user's device through a random identifier. The random identifier can be reset any time. 

Tech companies such as Amazon and Google also came under scrutiny after reports revealed that there is actually human oversight of their automatic voice assistants. In Google's case, the company claims that contractors are only allowed to transcribe audio directed to Google, and not anything else like background conversations. Google also shared that only 0.2% of all recordings are reviewed by humans.

Source: The Guardian via MacRumors

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