Business Technology

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Apple 'sorry' as it suspends listening to Siri voice recordings


Siri is available on the Apple HomePod (Apple/PA)
Siri is available on the Apple HomePod (Apple/PA)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Apple has apologised for letting outside contractors listen to Siri audio recordings from iPhones and iPads.

The tech giant said it has suspended the practice and will only reinstate it as an opt-in feature with no outside firms given access to the recordings.

Cork-based company Globetech is one of the external "contractor" firms affected by the decision.

Earlier this week, Globetech's chief executive Kevin Kelly described reports of up to 300 of his firm's workers being affected by Apple's action as "a difficult situation for everyone involved".

"We are committed to supporting our employees through potential redeployment opportunities, where possible," he said.

Apple is the latest big tech firm to get into trouble for listening to customer recordings without full transparency of how and what was being done.

In recent months, Amazon, Google and Facebook have all received public censure for having workers listen to recordings from their voice recognition technology.

The tech firms say they need to do this to make sure that the software is accurately understanding our voice commands.

But reports have emerged that some of the recordings include intensely personal moments of intimacy or conflict.

And the matter has reignited suspicions among some that tech companies sometimes secretly listen to physical conversations through phones - an accusation all of the companies deny.

"As a result of our review, we realise we haven't been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologise," said Apple in a statement.

The company, which is due to launch its iPhone 11 smartphone on September 10, says it will resume the testing later this autumn but only by its own staff and not contractors such as those from Globetech.

It also says that it will only be an opt-in system and it will no longer "retain" audio recordings of Siri interactions.

"Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri," the company said.

Irish Independent

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