Apple reviewing Siri audio grading practices, will let users opt out in future

Apple has announced in a statement that it is suspending the program which entailed human Apple contractors listening and grading a sample of Siri responses for quality control.

The company is conducting a thorough internal review of its Siri policies, and it will reinstate (a presumably different form of) Siri grading when it is finished. When Siri grading returns, users will be able to choose to opt-out of grading.

The decision from the company follows a Guardian report that shined light on the kind of conversations Apple contractors were hearing on a daily basis, as a result of the Siri grading program.

Many of these audio recordings were made when users didn’t even realise it was happening, like instances where Siri thought it heard someone say the “Hey Siri” trigger phrase, but it was mistaken. This essentially means random snippets of audio from people’s lives were being retained and listened to by Apple teams.

Apple’s privacy small print also did not explicitly mention that humans may listen back to Siri audio samples, an outlier for the company that tries to limit data collection and be explicit and open about how it used.

As it stands today, there was no way to prevent submitting your audio samples to Siri for possible “grading” — other than to turn off Siri altogether. Other services give the user control over whether they want to share data with Apple to improve the service, like the “Improve Maps” option.

Apple’s statement today addressed this, saying that users will be able to choose if they want to participate in grading as part of a future software update.

Apple did not say how long it expects the Siri policy review to take.

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