Apple's Siri Voice Clip Storage Policy Raises Privacy Concerns

 
 
By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-04-21 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


I have no idea whether that query was saved to Apple’s servers, or if it was, whether anyone will be able to tell if Siri called a taxi. But if it was saved and if someone were to find that voice clip, all they would really find out is that I asked the question.

But suppose someone were to ask a question of a more personal or private nature, such as “Where can I find a good divorce lawyer?” Is that the sort of thing you want stored on Apple’s servers, even if the chance of anyone finding out it’s you are remote?

Other scenarios, such as asking questions that could lead to revealing business secrets I find unlikely. For one thing, Siri isn’t equipped to answer complex questions. The second is that Siri is best used as a recreational service since its grasp of useful information is frequently very tenuous. If you’re looking for an answer to an important question, Siri is not your gal.

In fact, after the Nats lost in the playoffs in 2012, I stopped bothering to use Siri for anything. Worse, considering the way the season has started, I don’t ask Siri for scores because I’m afraid I’ll find out the answer.

But still, the privacy advocates who worry about those voice clips have a point. Those voice clips are still in Apple’s servers and while Apple promises to delete them after two years, how will we know when that happens? Meanwhile, those clips are identified by a random number that’s tied to a specific device. Although Apple says that it’s not connected to your Apple ID, is it still possible to identify the device and from that the owner of the device? Apple isn’t saying.

And while voiceprint technology still isn’t really ready for primetime, it’s getting better, and it’s possible to identify someone’s voice from a recording if you have a reference sample. This means it may be possible for a law enforcement agency to compare Siri voice clips against a clip from an individual. If you say the wrong thing, might the police come after you someday based on what you said in a Siri query? Again, we don’t really know.

Worse, Apple isn’t sharing these details to the iOS user community even if you look up the privacy policy on your device (it’s not revealed on the Website). While storing your queries may make sense, Apple needs to be upfront with its use of the voice files and give people a way to opt out, even if it means their Siri queries will be even more useless than usual.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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