Those who work on quality control for Apple’s Siri voice assistant “regularly hear confidential details” about users, according to a contractor paid to assess responses to Siri recordings.
The news: The whistleblower told the Guardian these workers routinely hear sensitive information like drug deals, confidential medical details, and people having sex.
Why are they listening in the first place? Just like Amazon and Google, Apple employs people to listen to a sample of recordings from people’s conversations with Siri, transcribe them, and grade the responses according to a set of criteria. These include whether the voice assistant was activated deliberately or not, whether Siri could help with the query, and whether its response was appropriate.
However: Apple, again like Amazon and Google, does not explicitly disclose that it is doing this in its consumer terms and conditions (which are virtually unreadable, anyway). Apple likes to pride itself on being a privacy-conscious company, so this revelation may be more damaging for it than for other firms. Unlike the other two companies, Apple provides no way for users to opt out of their recordings being used this way, other than to just not use Siri at all. Apple told the Guardian that fewer than 1% of Siri recordings are used for training and that they are not associated with a user’s Apple ID.
Do consumers care? There’s been some online outrage about this practice and the fact it’s done without customer consent (and so could be illegal within the European Union), but adoption of voice assistant technology shows no sign of slowing.
Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever
The city wants to get right what Sidewalk Labs got so wrong.
Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging
The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.
Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI
One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.
The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images
Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.