Voice assistants have been proven to be valuable programs. With the help of these tools, you can ask your phone a question, talk to your speaker system, or even let it remind you where you parked. Useful as they are, they also listen to your conversations. Reports suggest that there are privacy concerns related to Siri’s data handling.
Siri Eavesdrops on Your Conversations
In as much as Apple has a reputation for prioritizing user privacy, nothing stops it from using user data for internal purposes. It has come out that Apple users are at risk due to Siri eavesdropping. According to a Guardian report, Siri conversations are being reviewed by Apple contractors.
The UK-based news outlet also reported that the voice assistant could activate unexpectedly, potentially capturing sensitive information without the user’s awareness.
A whistleblower, who is a former contractor at the tech firm, told The Guardian that there are several instances of recordings, featuring private conversations. Adding to the concern is that these recordings could be accompanied by user data, such as contact details, location, and app data.
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Apple has responded to these claims, but it does not explicitly say that it has engaged humans to listen to the recorded conversations. In a statement to The Guardian, the tech giant admits that only 1% of the recordings are monitored to help the company improve Siri and dictation. It further stressed it does not store data with names or Apple ID details, which could easily recognize a person.
Despite this explanation, questions remain about how Apple allows third-party contractors to access user data. Considering there are about a half a billion Siri enabled devices in use, 1 percent isn’t a small number.
Ironically, Apple has repeatedly taken a dig at the Android OS over privacy, and it is ostensibly doing the same with its virtual assistant Siri. Additionally, the company has repeatedly stated that its business model differs from that of tech companies that rely on consumer data to thrive.
Siri Isn’t the Only Listening Voice Assistant
Apple’s Siri is just one of the voice assistants that have humans listening to recorded conversations. Other virtual assistants and apps that may be recording your conversations include:
The Guardian report echoed similar expose reported by VRT NWS a few weeks back. The Belgian broadcaster revealed that Google Assistant recordings were exposed for the world to hear.
Like Apple, Google insists that the data collected by its virtual assistant are useful in the development of its AI chatbot’s smarts.
Most people already know that Amazon’s Alexas are always listening. Alexa is usually activated when it detects one of its keywords, including Amazon, Alexa, Echo, and Computer.
Sometimes, the Facebook app requests access to your microphone, since it needs to record your voice when you go live. But some people are freaked out about the possibility of Facebook listening to their conversations.
Facebook has dismissed any claims of listening to private conversations. Since there is no evidence to justify this fear, you can’t let the app stop your discussions. In any case, you can sever the tie between your microphone and the app.
Preventing Voice Assistants from Eavesdropping
Unfortunately, many people enable these voice assistants on their phones or computers without adding any privacy controls. This state of affairs leads us to the question: Can you stop Siri from eavesdropping?
Regrettably, controlling Siri is not as straightforward as controlling the Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. While Google and Amazon allow their users to opt-out of some uses of their recorded conversations, Apple doesn’t have a similar privacy protection option. As such, there are valid concerns about Apple’s privacy settings for Siri.
The pervasiveness of this system leaves many Apple users at risk due to Siri eavesdropping. There is also the issue of Siri’s random activations. Luckily, you can disable this voice assistant entirely.
What to Do About Siri Eavesdropping?
If you are worried about the privacy risk posed by the current revelation, follow the tips below to stop Siri from eavesdropping.
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How to Disable Siri on iOS Devices
- Go to Settings.
- Scroll down and click on the Siri & Search option.
- Navigate to the Ask Siri section, and then turn off the Listen for “Hey Siri” setting.
- If a pop-up appears, confirm your action.
How to Turn Off Siri on Mac
- Tap on the Apple menu and choose System Preferences
- Look for Siri on the preferences panel and click on it.
- Untick the checkbox next to the Enable Ask Siri option.
That is, it. Using Apple’s Siri may not mean you are at serious risk of privacy violation. But it may be time to assess if you are giving up more privacy than necessary.