Aug 3, 2019

Apple Suspends Siri Grading Program Aimd Privacy Concerns

The Guardian broke the news recently that Apple's AI assistant Siri would send recordings containing user privacy to the contractor for manual analysis to improve the product. In response to the concerns of user privacy, Apple has suspended the so-called Siri Grading Program that was intended to determine if Siri has heard the query correctly or was incorrectly invoked.


In addition, Apple will release software updates in the future to allow Siri users to choose whether to participate in the grading process. In a statement to TechCrunch:
We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy. While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.
The Guardian report quoted insiders of the contractor as saying that Apple did not explicitly inform the user regarding the program. Thus, some fears that contractors may hear sensitive information such as name, location, and contact. However, Apple responded by saying that only 1% of recordings were being listened, with most of the recordings last only a few seconds; recordings are analyzed in a secure environment, and all auditors are obligated to comply with Apple's strict confidentiality requirements.

Listen to user recordings to improve voice assistants is a common practice in the tech industry. Amazon's Alexa, Google's Google Home, and other services have used manual evaluation to become more capable but have also raised concerns about privacy leaks. Though, people are more demanding of Apple because they position themselves as the most privacy-conscious company.

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