Apple Scrapped Plans to Let Users Use Siri to Make Purchases Due to Privacy Concerns

Three years ago, Apple explored letting users use Siri to make purchases for apps and services, similar to how users can use Amazon's Alexa to place orders online, but engineers scrapped the idea following privacy concerns, according to a new report today by The Information.

hey siri banner apple
The report highlights how engineers at Apple have limited access to how users use Apple's services, such as Apple TV+ and Apple Maps. Apple's strict privacy procedures make it harder for engineers to have direct access to usage data, causing concern that the company's strict privacy policy is stifling Apple's services and making it harder to compete with Google and others.

In the more noteworthy tidbit of the report, The Information reveals that in 2019, Apple explored the possibility of letting users use ‌Siri‌ to make purchases, but that further along in the project, the team in charge of the effort had to abort the idea following privacy concerns.

Some proposed Apple features never see the light of day because of privacy restrictions. In 2019, employees explored whether a customer could use Siri to purchase apps and other online services by using their voice, similar to how customers of Amazon buy products using its voice assistant, Alexa, according to a person with direct knowledge of the project. The effort stalled in part because of strict privacy rules that prevented Siri from tying a person's Apple ID to their voice request. The Apple media products team in charge of the project couldn't find an alternative way to reliably authenticate users in order to bill them, this person said.

This isn't the first time that Apple's privacy policy has limited what its engineers can do, according to the report. Engineers and staffers working on ‌Siri‌, the App Store, and even the Apple Card often have to "find creative or costly ways to make up for the lack of access to data."

One of those creative ways Apple engineers have come up with is differential privacy, which was first demoed by Apple's Craig Federighi at WWDC 2016. In a technical PDF overview, Apple describes its implementation of differential privacy as enabling it "to learn about the user community without learning about individuals in the community. Differential privacy transforms the information shared with Apple before it ever leaves the user’s device such that Apple can never reproduce the true data."

Even with differential privacy, however, and Apple's attempt to aggregate as much user data possible without making it traceable back to specific users, engineers remain concerned and feel constrained with what they can and can not do, according to the report.

Despite those efforts, the former Apple employees said that differential privacy and other attempts to work around customer data restrictions have had limited or mixed results and that it can be tough for new employees to adapt to Apple's strong privacy culture, which comes directly from CEO Tim Cook and other senior vice presidents. Apple's efforts to reduce how much customer data it collects are based on fears that employees could try to look at the information for improper reasons—the kind of well-known violations that have occurred at Google and at Uber—or that hackers could compromise the data.

The report also sheds light on privacy concerns during the development of the Apple Watch. According to people who worked on the project cited in the report, features like Raise to Speak, which lets users speak to ‌Siri‌ without a verbal "Hey ‌Siri‌" by just raising their wrist faced initial pushback due to concerns about microphone and accelerometer data collection.

Top Rated Comments

sorgo Avatar
8 months ago
“Hey Siri, play ‘IPHONE’ by Rico Nasty.”

“Ok, placing an order for iPhone SE.”
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LivingMyBeachLife Avatar
8 months ago
Although Siri is not as "Smart" as the Alexa and Google products, privacy is a major reason why I will never have an Amazon Alexa or Google Smart home product in my home.
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Caliber26 Avatar
8 months ago
I can't even trust Siri to play the right song or call the right contact. Ain't no way I'd trust her to order something for me. Smart assistant? More like DUMB assistant. If it weren't because she's baked into iOS, Siri would be the least used assistant in the market.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BootsWalking Avatar
8 months ago
Ordering through Siri would be like participating in an office grab bag - you'd have no idea what would show up at your door three days later.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Apple Knowledge Navigator Avatar
8 months ago
It’s not any more convenient than just doing it through a web browser/app. Why would anyone want this?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
_karrol Avatar
8 months ago
I guess a bigger concern would be Siri buying a lifelong delivery of dried worms instead of one can of dried tomatoes or something like that ??‍♂️
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

appleprivacyad cleaned

Apple Hit With Class Action Alleging It Tracks Users Despite Privacy Assurances

Monday November 14, 2022 4:56 am PST by
Apple is facing a proposed federal class action alleging that it records users' mobile activity without their consent and despite privacy assurances, in violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act, reports Bloomberg. In a lawsuit filed by New York citizen and iPhone 13 owner Elliot Libman, Apple is accused of "utterly false" assurances that users are in control of what information...
tim cook privacy conference

Apple CEO Tim Cook Writes Letter to U.S. Senate Supporting Strong Privacy Legislation

Friday June 10, 2022 9:36 am PDT by
Apple CEO Tim Cook today wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate advocating for strong privacy legislation at the federal level. The letter appears to be in response to a proposed bipartisan bill titled the "American Data Privacy and Protection Act" that would outline the types of data companies can collect from individuals and how they can use it. The letter, obtained by MacRumors, is addressed...
apple jane horvath

Apple's Chief Privacy Officer Jane Horvath to Depart Company

Tuesday August 30, 2022 5:11 pm PDT by
Apple privacy chief Jane Horvath is set to leave the company to join a law firm, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Horvath has served as Apple's Chief Privacy Officer for the last couple of years, and before that, she was senior director of global privacy at the company. Horvath has worked for Apple for more than a decade in total, and she has also worked at Google and was Chief...
appleprivacyad cleaned

Apple Device Analytics Contain Identifying iCloud User Data, Claim Security Researchers

Monday November 21, 2022 1:22 am PST by
A new analysis has claimed that Apple's device analytics contain information that can directly link information about how a device is used, its performance, features, and more, directly to a specific user, despite Apple's claims otherwise. On Twitter, security researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry have found that Apple's device analytics data includes an ID called "dsId," which stands...
apple jane horvath

Apple's Privacy Chief Jane Horvath to Speak at EU Data Protection Conference

Friday May 6, 2022 7:53 am PDT by
Apple's privacy chief Jane Horvath is listed as a speaker at the 2022 Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference in Brussels, Belgium. Apple is also sponsoring the conference, which is scheduled for May 23 through May 25. It's unclear when Horvath will speak or what topics she plans to discuss at the conference, but Apple has been advocating against the EU's proposed Digital Markets...
hey siri banner apple

Gurman: Apple Working On Revamped Siri Experience That Doesn't Require 'Hey Siri' Trigger Phrase

Sunday November 6, 2022 5:54 am PST by
Apple is working on an updated Siri experience that moves away from the trigger phrase "Hey Siri" currently required to invoke the digital voice assistant hands-free, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports. In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says that Apple is working on a way for Siri to be able to understand phrases and commands without the need to use the "Hey Siri" trigger phrase but...
tim cook iapp privacy summit 1

Tim Cook Delivers Speech Emphasizing Apple's Opposition to Sideloading

Tuesday April 12, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
Apple CEO Tim Cook today delivered the keynote speech at the Global Privacy Summit in Washington D.C. The conference, hosted by the International Association of Privacy Professionals, is focused on international privacy and data protection. Cook reflected on Apple's ongoing commitment to privacy, which the company has repeatedly described as a fundamental human right. "The fight to...
hey siri banner apple

Apple's Wave of Siri Updates to Continue Next Month With Long-Awaited Functionality

Thursday November 10, 2022 3:07 am PST by
Apple is looking to bring another long-standing Siri feature to the Apple TV with tvOS 16.2, allowing the virtual assistant to recognise a user's voice for the first time on the device. The first beta version of tvOS 16.2 enables Siri voice recognition on the Apple TV for a more personalized experience – a feature that has been available on other Apple devices like the HomePod for several...

Popular Stories

applefifthavenue

Man Robbed After Buying 300 iPhones From Apple Fifth Avenue

Tuesday November 29, 2022 11:54 am PST by
An unnamed 27-year-old man who purchased 300 iPhones from Apple Fifth Avenue on Monday morning was robbed shortly after leaving the store, according to 1010Wins Radio in New York. He was carrying 300 iPhone 13s in three bags and walking to his car at 1:45 a.m. when another car pulled up next to him. Two men jumped out and demanded that he hand over the bags. Not wanting to hand over 300...
iOS 16

Apple Releases iOS 16.1.2 With Carrier Improvements and Crash Detection Optimizations

Wednesday November 30, 2022 10:09 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 16.1.2, another minor bug fix update that comes one week after the release of iOS 16.1.1 and three weeks after the launch of iOS 16.1, an update that added support for iCloud Shared Photo Library, Matter, Live Activities, and more. The iOS 16.1.2 update can be downloaded on eligible iPhones over-the-air by going to Settings > General > Software Update. According...
app store awards 2021

Apple Announces 2022 App Store Award Winners, Highlighting Best Apps of the Year

Tuesday November 29, 2022 3:10 am PST by
Apple today announced its 2022 App Store Award winners, highlighting the 16 best apps and games selected by Apple's global App Store editorial team. The top apps were chosen by Apple for their quality, innovative technology, creative design, positive cultural impact, and ability to deliver "exceptional experiences." Apple CEO Tim Cook said: This year's App Store Award winners reimagined...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

'M2 Max' Geekbench Scores Leak Online, Revealing Rumored Specs and Performance

Wednesday November 30, 2022 2:39 am PST by
Geekbench scores allegedly for the upcoming "M2 Max" chip have surfaced online, offering a closer look at the performance levels and specific details of the forthcoming Apple silicon processor. The Geekbench results, first spotted on Twitter, are for a Mac configuration of with the M2 Max chip, a 12-core CPU, and 96GB of memory. The Mac listed has an identifier "Mac14,6," which could be...
eufy camera

Anker's Eufy Cameras Caught Uploading Content to the Cloud Without User Consent [Updated]

Tuesday November 29, 2022 1:01 pm PST by
Anker's popular Eufy-branded security cameras appear to be sending some data to the cloud, even when cloud storage is disabled and local only storage settings are turned on. The information comes from security consultant Paul Moore, who last week published a video outlining the issue. According to Moore, he purchased a Eufy Doorbell Dual, which was meant to be a device that stored video...
Apple Park View

Elon Musk Meets With Apple CEO Tim Cook Amid Claims of Twitter App Store Dispute [Updated]

Wednesday November 30, 2022 12:43 pm PST by
Twitter CEO Elon Musk today met with Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, according to a tweet shared by Musk this afternoon. Musk thanked Cook for taking him around Apple's headquarters, with no mention of what the two might have discussed. The meeting comes just after Musk on Monday claimed that Apple has "mostly stopped" offering ads on Twitter, and that...
iphone 11 tesla cybertruck close up

Elon Musk Pledges to Build iPhone Rival If Apple Ousts Twitter

Tuesday November 29, 2022 2:48 am PST by
Elon Musk has pledged to offer an "alternative phone" if Apple and Google remove Twitter from their app stores, adding to long-standing rumors about an iPhone rival from Tesla. Modified iPhone 11 Pro in the style of the Tesla Cybertruck, by Caviar. Musk's remark came after being asked about the potential scenario of Twitter being removed from app stores, which could conceivably happen if the...
Cyber Monday Deals Feature 2022

Best Cyber Monday Apple Deals Still Available for AirPods, Apple TV, iPad, and More

Monday November 28, 2022 5:24 am PST by
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping rush is drawing to a close, but there are still some good deals to be had out there. For Apple products, many of the deals you've seen since last week are still available, though some have expired. So for anyone who missed out on Black Friday deals, there's still an opportunity to get some of the year's best prices on many Apple devices. Note: ...
apple music replay 2022 highlight reel cropped

Apple Music Replay 2022 Revamped With 'Highlight Reel' [Updated]

Tuesday November 29, 2022 4:02 am PST by
Apple today rolled out an updated Apple Music Replay experience for 2022, showcasing a new "highlight reel" feature. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The overhauled experience, which started to be noticed by Apple Music subcribers on Twitter earlier today, puts the new highlight reel feature at the forefront of the Replay webpage, which users are encouraged to...
iPhone 14 Pro Rear Camera

iPhone 15 to Use 'State-of-the-Art' Image Sensor From Sony for Better Low-Light Performance

Monday November 28, 2022 11:00 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 15 models will be equipped with Sony's newest "state of the art" image sensors, according to a report from Nikkei. Compared to standard sensors, Sony's image sensor doubles the saturation signal in each pixel, allowing it to capture more light to cut down on underexposure and overexposure. Nikkei says that it is able to better photograph a person's face even with...