In July an Oregon Republican, Greg Walden and other representatives had written to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page stating that their smartphones can collect audio data from users’ conversations, while constantly being on the lookout for the trigger phrase, such as ‘OK Google‘ and ‘Hey Siri’. Now, in a response to that letter, Apple has specified that its iPhones do not listen to users without their consent and neither does the company allow third-party apps to do the same.
As reported by Reuters, Apple stated that its iPhones do not record audio through Siri and do not share the words spoken to it. In the case of a third-party app. the company claims that it can only use the microphone if it has been approved from the user. Third-party apps are also required to display a clear signal that the microphone is being used.
The company states in its letter that it has removed plenty of apps from its Apps store citing privacy issues. Above that, about 36,000 apps are said to be rejected from about 100,000 submissions each week, on the basis of its guidelines violation. That said, the company didn’t mention if it has ever banned a developer from the App store over these violations.
However, there are some things that are out of the company’s jurisdiction. Reuters quoted the letter stating, “Apple does not and cannot monitor what developers do with the customer data they have collected, or prevent the onward transfer of that data, nor do we have the ability to ensure a developer’s compliance with their own privacy policies or local law.”
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User privacy has become one of the key focuses with social media applications lately. The letters sent by the lawmakers claiming that smartphones record user conversation, follows the congressional hearings held in April to account for Facebook’s privacy practices. This also included a testimony by the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. While Apple has responded to lawmakers, it’s still unclear if Alphabet has done the same. That said, the deciding Committee will be looking into responses sent by both these companies and will consider its next steps accordingly.