Apple workers will once again be listening into your conversations recorded by Siri unless you opt out

  • In August, Apple suspended practice and apologised for using people to review
  • Now it will resume the use of humans to review Siri commands and dictation
  • Users opposed the practice as it means their privacy is breached by the workers

The latest Apple update will record users’ conversations with Siri, before allowing workers to listen in and review them – unless users opt out.

Apple is resuming the use of humans to review Siri commands and dictation with the latest iPhone software update iOS 13.2 – available now.

In August, Apple suspended the practice and apologised for the way it used people, rather than just machines, to review the audio after privacy issues were raised.

While common in the tech industry, the practice undermined Apple’s attempts to position itself as a trusted steward of privacy.

A screen displays a notice when installing the update, iOS 13.2 on an iPhone on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in New York. Individuals can choose ‘Not Now’ to decline audio storage and review

CEO Tim Cook repeatedly has declared the company’s belief that ‘privacy is a fundamental human right,’ a phrase that cropped up again in Apple’s apology.

Now, Apple is giving consumers notice when installing the update, iOS 13.2. Individuals can choose ‘Not Now’ to decline audio storage and review. Users who enable this can turn it off later in the settings.

Apple also specifies that Siri data is not associated with a user’s Apple ID.

Tech companies say the practice helps them to improve their artificial intelligence services.

Apple is resuming the use of humans to review Siri commands and dictation with the latest iPhone software update

But the use of humans to listen to audio recordings is particularly troubling to privacy experts because it increases the chances that a rogue employee or contractor could leak details of what is being said, including parts of sensitive conversations.

Apple previously disclosed plans to resume human reviews this fall, but hadn’t specified when. Apple also said then that it would stop using contractors for the reviews.

Other tech companies have also been resuming the practice after giving more notice. Google restarted the practice in September, after taking similar steps to make sure people know what they are agreeing to.

Also in September Amazon said users of its Alexa digital assistant could request that recordings of their voice commands delete automatically.

Apple said they would make major changes to a program that scraped up audio from its voice-assistant Siri when security concerns arose in August

IS YOUR SMARTPHONE LISTENING TO YOU TO TARGET ADS?

For years smartphone users have complained of the creepy feeling their gadget is recording their every word, even when it is sat in their pocket.

Many share a similar story: They were chatting about a niche product or holiday destination with friends, and soon afterwards an advertisement on the same theme appears in their social media apps.

According to Dr Peter Henway, a senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterisk, these oddly pertinent ads aren’t merely a coincidence and your phone regularly listens to what you say.

It’s not known exactly what triggers the technology, but Dr Henway claims the technique is completely legal and is even covered in the terms of your mobile apps’ user agreements.

Most modern smartphones are loaded with AI assistants, which are triggered by spoken commands, like ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘OK, Google’.

For years smartphone users have complained of the creepy feeling their gadget is recording their every word, even when it is sat in their pocket (stock image) 

These smartphone models are constantly listening out for the designated wake word or phrase, with everything else discarded. 

However, keywords and phrases picked-up by the gadget can be accessed by third-party apps, like Instagram and Twitter, when the right permissions are enabled, Dr Henway told Vice.

This means when you chat about needing new jeans, or plans for a holiday, apps can plaster your timeline with adverts for clothes and deals on flights.

Facebook categorically denies it uses smartphone microphones to gather information for the purposes of targeted advertising.

The company has previously said that the eerie feeling that your phone is listening to you is merely an example of heightened perception, or the phenomenon whereby people are more likely to notice things they’ve recently talked about.

A number of other companies, including WhatsApp, also deny bugging private conversations, describing any anecdotal evidence as pure coincidence. 

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