Apple Can't Get Out of Siri Privacy Lawsuit, Says Judge
Apple will not be able to avoid a proposed class action lawsuit covering Siri privacy claims, reports Reuters. The suit in question, which was initially filed in 2019, accuses Apple's voice assistant Siri of violating user privacy.
The plaintiffs involved in the case can try to prove that Siri routinely recorded private conversations due to accidental activations, and that Apple disclosed those conversations to third parties such as advertisers, said the judge.
One user in the lawsuit claimed that his private discussions with his doctor about a "brand name surgical treatment" caused him to receive targeted ads for that treatment, while others said that their discussions about Air Jordan sneakers, Pit Viper sunglasses, and Olive Garden resulted in targeted ads.
That is not how Siri works and there has been no evidence that Apple has ever provided Siri recordings to advertisers. People have long accused social networks of listening in on their conversations and using those discussions for ad purposes, but this has never been proven.
Though it may be difficult for the plaintiffs to prove that Apple is providing Siri recordings to advertisers, Apple found itself embroiled in a Siri-related scandal in 2019 after it was revealed that Apple had contractors listening to Siri recordings where they heard private conversations involving drug deals, medical info, and more after Siri was accidentally activated.
Human-based Siri analysis was never a secret, but at the time, Apple's privacy terms did not make it clear that people could potentially hear conversations that were recorded via Siri. Apple temporarily suspended its Siri evaluation program and then ultimately implemented options to delete Siri recordings and to block them from being listened to. Apple also stopped using contractors.
Apple in iOS 15 has gone even further with Siri privacy and many Siri requests will now be handled entirely on device, so Siri content is not uploaded to Apple's servers for processing.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are permitted to pursue claims that Apple violated the federal Wiretap Act and California privacy law, in addition to breach of contract. The lawsuit has requested $5,000 per violation from Apple.