Apple Facing Lawsuit for 'Unlawful and Intentional' Recording of Confidential Siri Requests Without User Consent

Apple is facing a class action lawsuit [PDF] for employing contractors to listen to and grade some anonymized Siri conversations for the purpose of quality control and product improvement.

Apple's ‌Siri‌ practices were highlighted in a recent report where one of the contractors claimed that Apple employees evaluating ‌Siri‌ recordings often hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and other private information when ‌Siri‌ is activated accidentally.

hey siri
The lawsuit, filed in a Northern California court today (and shared by CNBC's Kif Leswing), accuses Apple of "unlawful and intentional recording of individuals' confidential communications without their consent," violating California privacy laws when accidental ‌Siri‌ activations are recorded and evaluated by humans.

‌Siri‌ Devices are only supposed to record conversations preceded by the utterance of "Hey ‌Siri‌" (a "wake phrase") or through a specific gesture, such as pressing the home button on a device for a specified amount of time. California law prohibits the recording of oral communications without the consent of all parties to the communication.

Individuals who have purchased or used ‌Siri‌ Devices and interacted with ‌Siri‌ have not consented to Apple recording conversations where "Hey ‌Siri‌" was not uttered or where they did not otherwise perform a gesture intending to activate ‌Siri‌, such as pressing and holding down the home button on a device for a certain period of time.

As outlined in its privacy policies, Apple collects some anonymized ‌Siri‌ recordings for the purpose of improving ‌Siri‌ and, presumably, cutting down on accidental ‌Siri‌ activations. These recordings are analyzed by humans and can include details recorded when ‌Siri‌ mishears a "Hey ‌Siri‌" trigger word.

The lawsuit claims that Apple has not informed consumers that they are "regularly being recorded without consent," though it also highlights Apple's privacy policy where Apple does state that such data can be used for improving its services.

The plaintiffs in the case, one of whom is a minor, claim to own an iPhone XR and an iPhone 6 that they would not have purchased had they known that their ‌Siri‌ recordings were stored for evaluation. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status for all individuals who were recorded by a ‌Siri‌ device without their consent from October 12, 2011 to the present.

The lawsuit asks for Apple to obtain consent before recording a minor's ‌Siri‌ interactions, to delete all existing recordings, and to prevent unauthorized recordings in the future. It also asks for $5,000 in damages per violation.

Apple has suspended its Siri evaluation program right now as it reviews the processes that are in place in light of the contractor's claims. Prior to the suspension of the program, Apple said that a small, random subset (less than 1%) of daily ‌Siri‌ requests are analyzed for improving ‌Siri‌ and dictation, with requests not associated with a user's Apple ID.

Apple in the future plans to release a software update that will let ‌Siri‌ users opt out of having their ‌Siri‌ queries included in the evaluation process, something that's not possible at the current time. All collected ‌Siri‌ data can be cleared from an iOS device by turning ‌Siri‌ off and then on again, while accidental recordings can be stopped by disabling "Hey ‌Siri‌."

Top Rated Comments

nacheen Avatar
23 months ago
Guess they should have read the terms of service better...
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nsayer Avatar
23 months ago
All of that quality assurance work and Siri is still comically bad at understanding what she's asked.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
neuropsychguy Avatar
23 months ago
This lawsuit is going nowhere.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
uajafd Avatar
23 months ago
"Apple in the future plans to release a software update that will let Siri users opt out of having their Siri queries included in the evaluation process, something that's not possible at the current time."

Not nearly good. This should be opt-in, not opt-out. Also, I imagine this is some grounds for a GDPR lawsuit.

I also read the whole privacy statement displayed when you try to enable Siri. Nowhere in it does it say that humans listen to snippets of your conversations.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sir1963nz Avatar
23 months ago
"What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone" ... apparently not.

Apple has made HUGE statements about privacy, "Privacy is King" , and it turns out that is 'misleading' at best.

Will I opt-in, nope because you have shown that you are no more trustworthy than any other company when it suits you.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zaft Avatar
23 months ago
That was quick.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
apple watch ecg

Apple Watch Likely to Gain Blood Pressure, Blood Glucose, and Blood Alcohol Monitoring

Monday May 3, 2021 4:03 am PDT by
The Apple Watch may gain the ability to measure blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood alcohol levels, according to newly-revealed information about one of Apple's chosen business partners. Apple has been revealed to be the largest customer of the British electronics start-up Rockley Photonics, The Telegraph reports. Rockley Photonics has developed non-invasive optical sensors for...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
snapchat dark mode

Snapchat Rolls Out Dark Mode on iOS

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:17 am PDT by
Nearly two years following the release of iOS and iPadOS 13, which included native, built-in, and systemwide dark mode, Snapchat, one of the world's most prominent social media networks, has finally rolled out a dark mode theme for iOS users. Snapchat began testing a dark mode theme of its app design late last year with a small group of iOS users. Now, Snapchat says that as of this week, it...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Brydge's 12.9-Inch iPad Pro Keyboard With Trackpad

Tuesday May 4, 2021 11:48 am PDT by
Brydge has been making keyboards for Apple's iPads for years now, and the newest model, the Brydge 12.9 MAX+, is compatible with the third, fourth, and fifth-generation iPad Pro models, so it works even with the new mini-LED iPad Pro. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, we checked out the new Brydge 12.9 MAX+ to see if it's a viable...
iphone 13 pro max dummy notch

iPhone 13 Pro Max Dummy Model Depicts Smaller Notch

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 13 models are expected to feature a slimmed down notch, marking the first major change to the TrueDepth camera system since it was introduced in the 2017 iPhone X. We're still months away from the launch of the iPhone 13, but Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy managed to get an iPhone 13 Pro Max dummy model that represents what we can expect from the new 2021 device. Dummy...
Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature 1

Mini-LED Display Production Improving for Redesigned MacBook Pro Models Later This Year

Monday May 3, 2021 8:33 am PDT by
Apple supplier TSMT, a key vendor involved in the production of mini-LED displays in the newly announced 12.9-inch iPad Pro, has been able to address technical challenges for the production of mini-LED displays to be used in the upcoming 14 and 16-inch redesigned MacBook Pro models. As reported by DigiTimes, TSMT had initially been facing production constraints with the circuit board and...
netflix sign up

Apple Discussed 'Punitive Measures' Against Netflix for Dropping In-App Purchases

Wednesday May 5, 2021 11:03 am PDT by
As the Epic Games v. Apple trial progresses into its third day, Apple's internal documents and communications with various companies are continuing to surface, giving us some insight into the dealings that Apple has had around the App Store. Back in December 2018, Netflix stopped offering in-app subscription options for new or resubscribing members and instead began requiring them to sign up ...
airtags

AirTag Owners Bemoan Inability to Let Others Track Their Items Via Family Sharing

Tuesday May 4, 2021 5:12 am PDT by
Apple's new AirTag item trackers have been making their way into the hands of customers since Friday, and while the company has tried to describe the ways that they can be used to find lost items, many users are still surprised and disappointed to learn that the location of an AirTag can't be shared with other family members. On the face of it, sharing the location of an AirTag via Apple's...