Last night, Apple joined Google in stopping its program to make human class members listen to voice commands from users recorded by the voice assistant. Apple did not specify whether it actually stopped or those recordings are still taking place. I asked and did not receive a clear answer.
For Apple's well-deserved reputation for protecting privacy, the actual controls users can offer their data settings are sometimes weak, opaque or non-existent. It is ironic because Apple has a much better set of standard technologies and policies when it comes to user data. In general, Apple wants to prevent your data from being available and make it easier for you to stop sharing it with others.
But this problem where Siri recordings are stored on it servers – albeit anonymous – has revealed a new problem, a problem that Apple needs to handle better as it shifts more and more of its companies to services. Because Apple does not use user data, the company does not have the same experience as Google, Amazon and even Facebook to offer users control over the data it is doing and it certainly does not have the same experience in dealing with privacy issues when they arise.
Amazon, Google and even Facebook each have a specific website where you can view data privacy settings for their assistants, delete data and generally get information about what each company knows about you. Here they are, written with the full URL (you should avoid blindly clicking on a link that you would like to direct directly to your account settings):
We have written manuals with more detailed instructions for removing your data from both the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
Apple does not offer a privacy portal website for your Siri data or a specific settings screen to fix it in an app. It is general privacy page is a large series of very clear explanations about what Apple's policy is but no specific information about your data or check boxes to delete it. The only thing you can do from the Apple website is download or delete all of them of your data.
This is partly due to Apple's relatively unique, device-oriented infrastructure. It is harder for Apple to create a web-based privacy portal when it takes so much effort to store data on discrete devices.
Nevertheless, Amazon and Google make it relatively easy to disable the voice recording of their assistants via the links above, although some features may be lost. Apple doesn't even know offer the ability to use Siri without saving your vote on its servers. Apple emphasizes that your recorded statements are not linked to your Apple account, but that is cold comfort if you are really worried about a human contractor who may hear private information that the HomePod accidentally heard in your home.
It gets even worse: although you can remove your expressions from Apple's servers, the process is so intuitive that the only way you can possibly learn how to do this is to download Google and find an article like this.
It is possible that with the future update you promised last night, you can use Siri without saving your vote on Apple servers. But read the Apple statement carefully and you will see that the opt-out is for "judging", not necessary recording: "In addition, as part of a future software update, users will have the opportunity to participate in the review."
Apple's most recent iOS security guide is a master class for explaining to consumers and security experts how to keep an operating system private. But look on page 69, where Apple describes its data retention policy for your voice recordings:
Voice recordings of users are stored for a period of six months so that the recognition system can use them to better understand the voice of the user. After six months, another copy will be retained, without its identification, for use by Apple in improving and developing Siri for up to two years. A small subset of recordings, transcripts and associated data without identification data can be used by Apple for continuous improvement and quality assurance of Siri after two years. In addition, some recordings that refer to music, sports teams and players, and companies or places of interest are stored in the same way to improve Siri.
"What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone" apparently has become "What happens on Siri stays on Apple's servers, possibly forever."
How to delete your voice recordings from Apple's servers
Here's how to delete your recorded voice notes on an iPhone, but you must repeat similar processes on every Apple device that you own. What you are going to do is remove all information Apple receives from Siri, including recordings of your voice. But the way you do that is not by going to the Privacy section of your settings. Do this instead:
- Go to & # 39; Settings & # 39;> & # 39; Siri and search & # 39;
- Disable all ways to activate Siri. There are two: "Listen to" Hey Siri "and" Press the side button for Siri. "
- When you disable the last way to activate Siri, Siri is effectively disabled. You will receive a warning that you have to take another step to remove your data from Apple's servers.
- Go to & # 39; Settings & # 39;> & # 39; General & # 39;> & # 39; Keyboard & # 39 ;. Scroll down to & # 39; Enable dictation & # 39 ;. If you check this, you will receive a warning that if you ever want to use it again, you & # 39; I have to upload it again.
You may be wondering why I am so strict that Apple has a problem here, but consider how weird the above steps really are. These are dark patterns on multiple levels.
First, the section & # 39; privacy & # 39; of the settings of the iPhone has nothing to do with deleting your Siri data. Secondly, the way you disable Siri is not only to disable "Use Siri", but to deselect it instead activate Siri. Third and very serious: there is no way to know that turning off these options is how you delete data that you may not want Apple to have. To find out, you need to press the & # 39;Our approach to privacy& # 39; On Apple's privacy page or, as I said above, googling.
And even if you get through all of this, this is the kicker: you have to go through all those steps on all your Apple devices to remove the data from Siri, but turning on Siri or Dictation means that data capture begins again.
Recently, 9to5Mac pointed to a downloadable iOS profile created by a security researcher who should stop logging on the server. It looks relatively harmless to my untrained eye, but it's never a good idea to just install profiles from the Internet, so I don't recommend it.
Enterprise users and schools have the option to build and install a profile themselves Apple's Configurator tool which disables so-called server-side logging for Siri. It is designed to help administrators manage small fleets of Apple devices, and technically against Apple's terms of service that consumers can use on their own phones. It's pretty easy to click on the wrong box in this tool and mess up your phone, so again I don't recommend it.
This is all terrible. But here's the good news: Apple's data practices are much, much more private than what Google or Amazon do. It does not follow you for advertising purposes on the entire web. It does not want to know what your location is or what you have purchased.
That's all great! But it is not a substitute for clear and obvious privacy settings for the data Apple has about you. Because Apple definitely knows a number of things! It has an advertising company in the App Store. It knows which Apple products you own. There is that iCloud loophole in which it can really transfer your synchronized data to governments if required by law, just like everyone else.
Apple collects much less data about you than Facebook, Google or Amazon, but it is not nothing. And the surprising-not-really-surprising revelation that it saves recordings of your voice, just like Google and Amazon, is proof of that.
Apple has had fewer privacy scandals than everyone else in the big technology (although there are still a few big ones). Apple is also trying to develop technology that is naturally private. But Apple has a blind spot to give users control when it comes to the data it actually collects, and it has created some bad user interfaces because of it. So the good news in all of this is that the complaint here is basically about product design – something Apple apparently knows about.
Privacy is not all or nothing when it comes to technology. All the other big tech giants learned that the hard way and needed to radically improve the tools they provide to users to manage their data.
Now it's Apple's turn.