Apple said today that its virtual assistant Siri will no longer retain audio recordings by default, after a furore over data privacy triggered by a whistleblower last month.
The decision comes after reports that contractors – tasked with grading audio against transcripts of user interactions with Siri for quality purposes – were hearing sex acts and drug deals while reviewing material.
That story first broke in July after a whistleblower reported the issue to the Guardian.
Apple, which earlier suspended such third-party gradings, apologised today for the saying that “we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals”.
An Apple software update due this autumn will include a range of changes to Siri.
Apple Software Update Blocks Retention by Default
Apple said that these include:
- By default, it 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.”
- 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” the company added.
“At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right,” the company said.
Grading of transcripts will resume later this autumn when software updates are released to users that allow them to opt-in to sharing sharing audio samples.