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Apple Contractors Can Hear Confidential Conversations On Siri Recordings

Dan 29 Jul 2019

The modern world is full of technology that, convenient and helpful as it may be, is totally spying on us. Letting go of a little bit of privacy is one thing, but a whistleblower from Apple has shed new light on the full extent of corporate snooping.

They're listening.

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Whether we're talking about Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, or Google's...Google...lady, lots of tech uses speech recognition to help users solve problems. But speech recognition can be a thorny issue when it comes to privacy.

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How does speech recognition get better?

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It's an example of artificial intelligence. While AI can improve on its own to a certain extent, there generally needs to be some human assistance at some point to make sure it's doing a good job.

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Apple hears everything.

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According to a report in The Guardian, Apple workers are hearing a lot more than just, "Siri, what's the weather like?" To help Siri improve, workers will listen in on what people are saying.

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The reasons make sense.

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Some Siri recordings (not all) are given to Apple employees for grading. They're looking at whether Siri activated properly, along with whether Siri was correct or not in answering a question.

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Some of the implications are troubling.

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An anonymous whistleblower said that Apple doesn't disclose enough of how it uses personal recordings. They also said that Siri frequently activates at times it shouldn't — for instance, when it hears a zipper.

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What's in these recordings?

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Just think of the private discussions you have throughout the day. "There have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters and so on," said the whistleblower.

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But it's anonymous, right?

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The whistleblower says these private conversations are "accompanied by user data showing location, contact details, and app data." Apple, on the other hand, told The Guardian that Siri data isn't linked to "other data that Apple may have from your use of other Apple services."

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What's it like to hear these recordings?

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The whistleblower said it was uncomfortable at times, particularly when listening to a recording of a private consultation between a doctor and patient. They also said that there's a high turnover and not much vetting in place for the people listening in.

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What's triggering the accidental recordings?

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The Apple Watch is reportedly the number one product, likely because a microphone on your wrist will hear more than one that's stuffed in a purse or in a pocket.

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Is it worth giving up our privacy?

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It's truly difficult to enjoy the convenience of modern technology while trying to maintain some modicum of privacy. Let us know what you think, and how you protect your privacy, in the comments.

h/t: The Guardian

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