Aug 28, 2019

Apple apologizes over Siri recordings

Screenshot from Apple.com

Apple on Wednesday apologized for how it handled the audio files when customers accessed its Siri assistant, and announced a series of changes aimed at better safeguarding customer privacy.

Why it matters: In recent weeks it has come to light that several of the major tech companies, including Apple, Google and Amazon, had been letting workers access a portion of virtual assistant conversations as part of their efforts to assess and improve quality.

Apple allowed contractors to listen to a small subset of customers' recordings, but put that program on hold earlier this month amid customer concerns.

The iPhone maker announced three significant changes on Wednesday.

  1. By default, it won't keep audio recordings of Siri interactions, but will use computer-generated transcripts to improve quality.
  2. Customers will be able to opt in to a program to share their audio files with Apple to help Siri get better. "We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place," Apple said. "Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time."
  3. When customers do opt in, Apple said only its employees — and not its contractors — will be allowed to listen to the audio files. Apple also said it will endeavor to delete recordings in which Siri was inadvertently triggered.

What they're saying: "We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process — which we call grading," Apple said in a statement. "We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We've decided to make some changes to Siri as a result."

Go deeper: What Apple knows about you

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Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.