Google and Amazon employees are not the only ones listening to your recording. A new report shows that even Apple contractors are regularly listening to confidential details on Siri recordings. The information could include confidential medical information, drug deals and even couples having sex. The contractors hear these recordings as part of their quality control job. The work plays a pivotal role in grading the conversation and making Siri better at user interaction. The revelation raises concerns since Apple does not explicitly disclose its workers listening to recordings in any documentation.
While Google, Facebook and Amazon are being scrutinized for privacy practice, Apple has championed the counter narrative. The company has placed billboard at prominent locations highlighting that it takes the privacy of its users very seriously. But this new detailed report from The Guardian will make you think otherwise. The report states that a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working around the world. These contractors grade the responses offered by Siri on a variety of factors. The factors include whether Siri was activated deliberately or by accident.
The work also involves understanding whether Siri could be expected to help with a query. Then the contractors grade whether Siri offered an appropriate response. Apple says the data “is used to help Siri and dictation … understand you better and recognize what you say”. The iPhone maker does not explicitly state that human workers listen to Siri recordings for the purpose of grading and quality control. A whistleblower, who has now come forward with details, has expressed concerns about this lack of disclosure.
Siri, Apple’s digital assistant, can be triggered by the wake word “Hey Siri”. However, the contractor notes that even the sound of a zip can be heard as a trigger by Siri. It might also get triggered by an Apple Watch if it detects being raised and then hears speech. It seems accidental activation were responsible for recording of most sensitive data being sent to Apple. The contractor also confirms that Apple Watch and HomePod smart speakers were the most frequent sources of mistaken recordings.
“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,” the whistleblower told The Guardian.
The contractor now argues that Apple should reveal that human oversight exists to its users. Amazon was found employing a staff to listen to some Alexa recordings in April. Earlier this month, Google was found doing similar work with Google Assistant.