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Apr 12, 2001
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siri_icon.jpg
Yesterday, Wired reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was raising questions about Apple's privacy policies regarding Siri, citing vague statements indicating that older "disassociated" voice clips would be kept for a "period of time" even if a user deactivated Siri on his or her device.
"It's not clear what 'disassociated' means. It's not clear what 'period of time' means. It's not clear what using it to 'generally improve Siri and other Apple products and services' means," says Nicole Ozer, a lawyer with the ACLU. "The only thing that's clear is we really don't know what may be happening to the personal information we have told Siri, even after we turn Siri off."
The report noted that privacy concerns have led to instances where companies such as IBM have banned the use of Siri.

In a follow-up report today, Wired shares official word from Apple that such data is stored in anonymized form for two years and reveals general details on how that data is anonymized.
Here's what happens. Whenever you speak into Apple's voice activated personal digital assistant, it ships it off to Apple's data farm for analysis. Apple generates a random numbers to represent the user and it associates the voice files with that number. This number -- not your Apple user ID or email address -- represents you as far as Siri's back-end voice analysis system is concerned.

Once the voice recording is six months old, Apple "disassociates" your user number from the clip, deleting the number from the voice file. But it keeps these disassociated files for up to 18 more months for testing and product improvement purposes.
Ozer suggests that Apple should go further in publicizing these privacy policies, linking them directly from Apple's Siri FAQ page, and that users should always be mindful of what they are saying to Siri because "Siri works for Apple".

Article Link: Anonymized Siri Voice Clips Stored by Apple for Up to Two Years
 

sillypooh

macrumors regular
Jun 25, 2010
160
9
So what?

Is there any value, privacy-wise, to "honey, I will be late"?
 
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maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
67,691
35,078
Boston
My only question is why especially since its anonymized - what benefit is there to Apple?
 
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samcraig

macrumors P6
Jun 22, 2009
16,637
41,619
USA
the only thing is - even anonymized - there's personal information within the actual voice/text

For one - recordings can be voice printed
Second - lots of requests have to do with setting up meetings, making calls, dictating emails, etc.

I'm not saying Apple is doing anything evil or wrong. But the idea that the data can't be linked to someone is a bit off mark (to me)
 
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sshambles

macrumors 6502a
Oct 19, 2005
737
1,053
Australia
It'd be interesting to see how many "Siri, where's the best place to hide a body?" questions there are stored up.
 
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Kissaragi

macrumors 68020
Nov 16, 2006
2,340
369
Oh no! Recordings of me asking siri to set a dentist appointment for next week! :rolleyes:
 
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daveheinzel

macrumors newbie
Jun 29, 2007
29
24
I assumed the long-term storage was just because it sometimes takes Siri that long to process a request.
 
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Slix

macrumors 65816
Mar 24, 2010
1,194
1,436
Still don't understand why people would be concerned to use Siri, if your Apple ID or email or name or anything isn't stored in relation to your voice requests. It's anonymous as far as the server is concerned. There's no reason to worry about it.

I'll continue to use it, anyways. :p
 
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thefourthpope

Contributor
Sep 8, 2007
1,060
315
DelMarVa
I can't believe people willingly purchase a product that includes an optional service that collects and transmits your personal data. Your data is your life. Take steps to protect yourself! Don't let Google do this! They're clearly, objectively, irredeemably evil.
:p
 
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nwcs

macrumors 68020
Sep 21, 2009
2,036
2,799
Tennessee
I don't see much harm if they are in fact doing what they said. It is also extremely likely Samsung and Google are doing similar with their respective services. The value in having these files, even disassociated, is that you start analyzing trends in usage as well as commands/requests made. It can guide a company on where to improve their product, add new features, or highlight uses people don't seem to be using.

I'm definitely someone who values privacy, and I also have worked in software for 20 years and know exactly how customer data is usually handled on the backend. I really don't have a problem with this. And, honestly, I have no problem with Google's data collection per se. What I dislike is advertising which is their business.
 
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leman

macrumors G5
Oct 14, 2008
12,859
8,222
Google does exactly the same thing. As does any similar system. They have to do it, because speech recognition is based upon detection of statistically significant patterns within the signal. The more data you have, the better accuracy you can get out of the system. My source: had a lengthy discussion about it with a Google Voice Search team member.
 
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thefourthpope

Contributor
Sep 8, 2007
1,060
315
DelMarVa
Look, what's important about this is that we didn't know about it earlier (or at least I didn't, which makes me think it was not common knowledge). Particularly on this site, Apple tends to get the benefit of the doubt in relation to "evil" companies like Google that we assume are out to take, store, use, and profit from personal data.

This story tells us that Apple has been headed in that same direction. It's a small step from fully anonymized data to something that sends you targeted advertisements based on your question patterns. From there, who knows?

And that says nothing of the creepy big-brother implications of tracking our spoken search histories.
 
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nad8e

macrumors regular
Jul 17, 2008
151
2
Colorado
Hah, so it's storing my 2 years of obscenities and vulgarities? :p And asking to call someone in my address book? :eek:
 
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jrswizzle

macrumors 603
Aug 23, 2012
6,107
128
McKinney, TX
I'd assume the benefit to Apple has to do with analyzing tones and accents to make Siri more responsive.....

If they truly do "anonymize" (which if Google supposedly does - with much more personal info I might add, why would we not assume Apple would too) who really cares?

It's not like they have your name and SSN tied to a list of clips of things you've told/asked Siri.

What a paranoid world we live in. For what its worth, I have all the "send data to Apple" stuff turned on (same with google locations) and so far, I haven't received any visits from reps from either company.
 
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tbrinkma

macrumors 68000
Apr 24, 2006
1,651
93
My only question is why especially since its anonymized - what benefit is there to Apple?

It's a huge batch of voice samples to test against for language and syntax recognition improvements. You don't need to know *who* said it for that to be useful.
 
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jrswizzle

macrumors 603
Aug 23, 2012
6,107
128
McKinney, TX
Look, what's important about this is that we didn't know about it earlier (or at least I didn't, which makes me think it was not common knowledge). Particularly on this site, Apple tends to get the benefit of the doubt in relation to "evil" companies like Google that we assume are out to take, store, use, and profit from personal data.

This story tells us that Apple has been headed in that same direction. It's a small step from fully anonymized data to something that sends you targeted advertisements based on your question patterns. From there, who knows?

And that says nothing of the creepy big-brother implications of tracking our spoken search histories.

We don't assume - we know. It's pretty common knowledge (and common sense) that Google makes their money off of their users' data/info.

My question would be - so what?
 
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Chupa Chupa

macrumors G5
Jul 16, 2002
14,834
7,394
My only question is why especially since its anonymized - what benefit is there to Apple?

I assume as another dialect and/or way of asking for something to test Siri with. It doesn't need to know who spoke the request, just b able to understand what the user said and what they are requesting.

Seems to me Apple's storage is rather a tempest in a teapot if it's really anonymized. Think of all the tracking cookies on our machines, or the store "club cards" we use to save .05 on a box of crackers. There is so much data collected about us I hardly see the difference of going to, say Fandango and looking at movie times vs. asking Siri for movie times.
 
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Squilly

macrumors 68020
Nov 17, 2012
2,260
4
PA
Okay, now really... people are scared of the invasion of privacy of Siri. LOOK AT GOOGLE!
 
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