Apple and Siri hit headlines at the start of the month as a report highlighted how Apple hired teams of contractors to listen and review audio clips from customer’s Siri interactions.
Apple responded by halting the Siri grading process. Ultimately, this put a whole host of people out of work. The Irish Examiner spoke to contractors in Cork who were impacted by the decision.
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Apple used contractors to validate the performance of Siri’s transcription and understanding. Apple said grading involved less than 1% of daily Siri activations and all recordings were anonymized.
The Examiner said that contractors were expected to listen to 1,000 clips of Siri recordings. Most recordings would only be a few seconds in length.
The employees were hired on fixed-term contracts as data analysts in Cork, Ireland. It is reported that as many as 300 people have now been laid off in the wake of the decision to pause grading of Siri audio recordings.
In a statement, Apple said it was working closely with its contractor partners to provide the best outcome for workers and its customers.
A spokesperson for Apple said: “We believe that everyone should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve — this includes our own employees and the suppliers we work with in Ireland and around the world. Apple is committed to customer privacy and made the decision to suspend Siri grading while we conduct a thorough review of our processes. We’re working closely with our partners as we do this to ensure the best possible outcome for our suppliers, their employees and our customers around the world.”
An ex-Apple contractor interviewed in The Examiner study said they were mostly listening to clips of users with Canadian, Australian, and UK English accents. Presumably, other teams in different parts of the world also processed Siri grading work.
The Apple Siri scandal follows similar controversies relating to Amazon, Microsoft and Google voice products.
For its part, Apple has announced it has temporarily halted Siri grading whilst it reviews its practices. In a future software update, the company will let users opt-out of having their recordings used for Siri grading. Apple has not yet said when it plans to restore the Siri grading operations, or what changes will be made to address the privacy concerns.
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