Apple apologizes for overhearing conversations, introduces changes

The move follows backlash received by Apple after a Guardian report revealed confidential information was being accessed by its contractors

Apple apologized to customers yesterday for letting its contractors listen to their often confidential conversations in the name of its digital assistant Siri’s quality review, following The Guardian’s reveal last month. After the report was published, Apple had temporarily suspended the review process and has yesterday uploaded a blog post apologizing and discontinuing the same. Here onwards they would be using computer generated transcripts for reviews and users would have to opt-in to give their audio samples, following which they would only be reviewed by Apple employees, it establishes.

Guardians’ report was especially alarming since users were given no prior intimation that such an activity would take place with their data and Apple has always maintained a pro-privacy stance with its devices. Apple’s blog post yesterday, once again reiterated its stance on that where it began its post with the line ‘At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right’.

A contractor, under the condition of anonymity, had told The Guardian that false triggers would often wake up Google’s HomePod speaker and it’s Smartwatch which would subsequently begin recording. These often picked up confidential medical details, criminal exchanges and even sexual encounters. While less than 1 per cent (0.2 per cent) of Siri recordings were passed on to contractors for quality control, the contractor had expressed concern due to the often sensitive nature of the information and ‘not much vetting of who works there’.

With the new measures in place, Apple would join tech giants like Amazon and Google who also ask users to opt-in to give samples and use computer-generated transcripts otherwise.

Also read: Apple usually hears “confidential conversations” on Siri recordings

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