In a statement to TechCrunch Apple stated that it has suspended the Siri response rating program as it reviews the initiative designed to determine if the virtual assistant is unintentionally triggered. The company will also allow users to unsubscribe or exit Siri ratings as part of an upcoming software update.
"We are committed to providing a great Siri experience while protecting users' privacy," said an Apple spokesman. "While doing a thorough review, we are suspending Siri's rating globally. In addition, as part of a future software update, users will have the opportunity to choose to participate in the rating."
Apple came last week when a report from The Guardian cited an employee of the Siri grading program who said the process could inadvertently reveal a user's identity, personal information and other private material.
In an effort to make Siri more accurate, Apple employs contractors who listen to snippets of Siri questions uploaded from devices like the iPhone and HomePod. The goal, according to the company, is to resolve whether the assistant was invoked purposefully or by mistake, a determination that can only be made by a human operator.
Although Apple is taking steps to anonymize digested data and separate evaluated recordings from device owners, users can sometimes retrieve identity and private information from overheard audio, the entrepreneur says. The contractor also claims that some audio clips contain "private discussions between doctors and patients, business agreements, apparent criminal matters, sexual encounters, and so forth. These recordings are accompanied by user data showing location, contact information and app data." [1
The contractor also questioned Apple's transparency in the subject, stating that the company does not go far enough to reveal to consumers how the grading process is conducted and what it entails.
Apple responded to the claims, saying "a small portion" of Siri requests – less than 1% of daily activations – are being evaluated by quality control personnel. Reviewers must comply with "strict confidentiality requirements" and perform their work in "secure facilities," Apple said, adding that typical recordings subject to grading are a few seconds.
Although Apple informs users of ongoing Siri quality control measures in its terms, the language used is vague and does not specifically state that audio clips will be recorded and reviewed by other people.
Apple's move to halt temporary Siri ratings is in line with the company's well-cultivated public image as a bastion of consumer privacy. With critics loading Google, Facebook and others to gather user information, Apple uses privacy as a powerful marketing tool, promising customers that their products and services provide world-leading data security.