Apple lets users opt out of having Siri conversations recorded

Source: The Guardian – Artificial intelligence

Apple customers can now opt out of having their conversations with Siri listened to by human “graders” and delete any clips that have already been uploaded, three months after the Guardian revealed the practice based on a whistleblower report.

In the latest software updates for Apple’s products, including iOS 13.2 and macOS 10.15.1, users have the option to disable the grading feature while still using Siri as normal.

The preferences are not particularly prominent. To opt out of future grading on iOS, in the settings app, under the heading privacy, users can tap on “Analytics & Improvements” then disable the preference to “improve Siri dictation”. To delete their uploaded clips, they go to Siri & Search in the settings app, tap on Siri & Dictation History, and then hit a red button marked “Delete Siri & Dictation History”.

Apple first promised to roll out the new settings in August, a month after the story broke. The company apologised for not living up to its “high ideals”, and committed to building the ability to opt out, as well as ending the outsourcing programme that it had previously used to grade clips and bringing the work in-house.

Under the old system, Apple contractors had reported “regularly” hearing accidental activations, of up to 30 seconds, that included deeply personal recordings of sexual activity, medical consultations and drug dealing. Apple initially dismissed the concerns, saying Siri responses were “analysed in secure facilities”, before opening an internal investigation a week later.

Alongside the ability to opt out of Siri grading, iOS 13.2 brought a number of other changes to iPhones. A new set of emoji introduced non-binary variants for all previously gendered emoji, allowing users to express themselves as a firefighter, astronaut, or merperson without gender connotations.

The new “deep fusion” feature on the latest iPhones also aims to blend together multiple exposures for an image with higher detail at low light.