Anonymized Siri Voice Clips Stored by Apple for Up to Two Years

siri_iconYesterday, Wired reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was raising questions about Apple's privacy policies regarding Siri, citing vague statements indicating that older "disassociated" voice clips would be kept for a "period of time" even if a user deactivated Siri on his or her device.

“It’s not clear what ‘disassociated’ means. It’s not clear what ‘period of time’ means. It’s not clear what using it to ‘generally improve Siri and other Apple products and services’ means,” says Nicole Ozer, a lawyer with the ACLU. “The only thing that’s clear is we really don’t know what may be happening to the personal information we have told Siri, even after we turn Siri off.”

The report noted that privacy concerns have led to instances where companies such as IBM have banned the use of Siri.

In a follow-up report today, Wired shares official word from Apple that such data is stored in anonymized form for two years and reveals general details on how that data is anonymized.

Here’s what happens. Whenever you speak into Apple’s voice activated personal digital assistant, it ships it off to Apple’s data farm for analysis. Apple generates a random numbers to represent the user and it associates the voice files with that number. This number — not your Apple user ID or email address — represents you as far as Siri’s back-end voice analysis system is concerned.

Once the voice recording is six months old, Apple “disassociates” your user number from the clip, deleting the number from the voice file. But it keeps these disassociated files for up to 18 more months for testing and product improvement purposes.

Ozer suggests that Apple should go further in publicizing these privacy policies, linking them directly from Apple's Siri FAQ page, and that users should always be mindful of what they are saying to Siri because "Siri works for Apple".

Top Rated Comments

sillypooh Avatar
144 months ago
So what?

Is there any value, privacy-wise, to "honey, I will be late"?
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
daveheinzel Avatar
144 months ago
I assumed the long-term storage was just because it sometimes takes Siri that long to process a request.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sshambles Avatar
144 months ago
It'd be interesting to see how many "Siri, where's the best place to hide a body?" questions there are stored up.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
swy05 Avatar
144 months ago
The hypocrisy on this site is comical.

Yup, Google does it and they get slammed.

Apple does it and it's no big deal.

All logic defied.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
samcraig Avatar
144 months ago
the only thing is - even anonymized - there's personal information within the actual voice/text

For one - recordings can be voice printed
Second - lots of requests have to do with setting up meetings, making calls, dictating emails, etc.

I'm not saying Apple is doing anything evil or wrong. But the idea that the data can't be linked to someone is a bit off mark (to me)
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nwcs Avatar
144 months ago
I don't see much harm if they are in fact doing what they said. It is also extremely likely Samsung and Google are doing similar with their respective services. The value in having these files, even disassociated, is that you start analyzing trends in usage as well as commands/requests made. It can guide a company on where to improve their product, add new features, or highlight uses people don't seem to be using.

I'm definitely someone who values privacy, and I also have worked in software for 20 years and know exactly how customer data is usually handled on the backend. I really don't have a problem with this. And, honestly, I have no problem with Google's data collection per se. What I dislike is advertising which is their business.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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