Apple contractors regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control, or “grading”, the company’s Siri voice assistant, the Guardian has learned.
Although Apple does not explicitly disclose it in its consumer-facing privacy documentation, a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world. They are tasked with grading the responses on a variety of factors, including whether the activation of the voice assistant was deliberate or accidental, whether the query was something Siri could be expected to help with and whether Siri’s response was appropriate.
Apple says the data “is used to help Siri and dictation … understand you better and recognise what you say”. But the company does not explicitly state that that work is undertaken by humans who listen to the pseudonymised recordings.
A whistleblower working for the firm, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears over their job, expressed concerns about this lack of disclosure, particularly given the frequency with which accidental activations pick up extremely sensitive personal information… The whistleblower said: “There have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters and so on. These recordings are accompanied by user data showing location, contact details, and app data.”
That accompanying information may be used to verify whether a request was successfully dealt with. In its privacy documents, Apple says the Siri data “is not linked to other data that Apple may have from your use of other Apple services”. There is no specific name or identifier attached to a record and no individual recording can be easily linked to other recordings.
MacDailyNews Take: The article states that most of these accidental Siri activations occur on Apple Watch. With watchOS 5 and Apple Watch Series 3 or later, you don’t need to say “Hey Siri” to get Siri’s attention. You simply raise your wrist to wake your Apple Watch and say what you need.
Here’s how to turn the Raise To Speak feature off or on:
- Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
- Tap General > Siri.
- Turn Raise To Speak off or on.