Aug 2, 2019

Apple suspends program in which humans review users' Siri queries

Screenshot: Apple.com

Apple is putting a worldwide hold on a program that had contractors listening to some Siri queries in an effort to grade the digital assistant on its responses. When the program returns, Apple says users will have the choice whether to participate.

Why it matters: Apple touts privacy as a key selling point, making the idea that someone might be listening to Siri queries unsettling, even if only a tiny fraction of queries were being monitored.

Driving the news: The issue came to light after a Guardian report last week that Apple contractors had been privy to all sorts of conversations, including couples having sex and people at doctors' appointments, as part of their work "grading" Siri's response handling.

  • "While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally," Apple said in a statement to Axios, saying it is "committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy."
  • Apple previously said less than 1% of queries were subject to such grading and that they were typically only a few seconds long. Also, it said the queries weren't tied to a particular Apple ID and that those listening were in secure facilities and subject to Apple's strict confidentiality rules.

Between the lines: Digital assistants are in their early days, so the tech giants want to find ways to both see how well they are doing and identify areas for improvement. However, digital assistants are often awakened accidentally, and as such, can end up being privy to sensitive conversations.

The bigger picture: Google is pausing a similar program for EU residents after a Germany data protection commissioner announced an inquiry into its practices.

Go deeper

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.

Go deeperArrowAug 28, 2019

Apple sets Sept. 10 for new iPhone debut

Apple headquarters. Photo: Michael Short/Getty Images

Apple is expected to introduce a new crop of iPhones at a media event it has just scheduled for Sept. 10.

  • "By innovation only,” reads the scant text in this year's invite for the event, which will take place in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple headquarters.

Why it matters: Both Apple and the broader smartphone market have seen growth slow, adding importance to whatever Apple has in store for this year's model. Reports suggest additional cameras could be among the key selling points.

Keep ReadingArrowAug 29, 2019

Apple Cards begin to arrive in customers' phones and hands

An iPhone owner using Apple Card to make a payment. Photo: Apple

Apple today begins processing the first applications from consumers to get the new Apple Card, the credit card it is debuting in conjunction with Goldman Sachs.

Why it matters: It's part of a broader push into services from Apple, but also puts the company in direct competition with the banks and credit cards already part of Apple Pay.

Go deeperArrowAug 6, 2019