20 February 2020
Apple has announced that it is suspending the program where it hired contractors for listening to Siri conversations. It is a temporary suspension for the time being and until a thorough review of the process is completed. It further added that there will be a software update to allow users to opt-out of the program if they wish.
The decision to suspend the program is Apple's response to a recent The Guardian report that cited a whistleblower to reveal various unknown details. It mentioned that Apple has hired contractors who are assigned with the task of listening to Siri conversations. Their job is to grade the responses as per different factors like whether the Siri trigger was intentional or accidental and whether Siri responses were relevant and accurate to the query.
As part of this task, the contractors get to listen to private and confidential conversations like medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex. This is undoubtedly concerning and to make things words, it has been discovered that Apple does not clarify anywhere that it uses actual humans while listening to conversations.
At the time when the report first came out, Apple said:
“A small portion of Siri requests are analyzed to improve Siri and dictation. User requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID. Siri responses are analyzed in secure facilities and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements.” The company added that a very small random subset, less than 1% of daily Siri activations, are used for grading, and those used are typically only a few seconds long."
Siri is not the only digital assistant that has been reported about listening to people's conversation. Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa have also been found guilty of the same where these companies had humans for listening to what the users were talking about.