October 21, 2011

Apple Siri Privacy Issues?

Are there Apple Siri privacy issues? The kind where Siri(Apple) can know a lot about you as an individual and very specific information.

Siri automated assistant on the iPhone 4S is turning out to be a cool entertainment service, entertaining everyone who uses it – with right, wrong and witty answers. And, you may find good uses of Siri.

Siri only works when you have an Internet connection as it connects to Apple servers, which do the heavy processing, required for speech recognition, comparing your utterances to a speech-grammar that is built (and being updated) across all Siri users. Apple may also record users utterances to further improve the speech-grammar.

Some of these grammar-updates may be done automatically, while others will require manual fine-tuning.

There lie the potential privacy issues.

Siri, by analyzing your voice, will know a lot more about you than Google does (with its Search) or Amazon (with Amazon Silk browser) will.

While Google and Amazon can never be sure who is using their services, Apple Siri can uniquely identify you. Your voiceprint is as unique as your fingerprint.

Apple Siri through your voice will also know your gender, age (approximate), mood, race/origin (with your accent) and your health. With your voice recordings, it can also know how your behavior changes over time.

This is dream data for marketers if Apple ever decided to use it that way.

Apple’s approach, so far, has been to monetize its products rather than monetize its users (by selling or using their data for advertising etc). It shows that Apple treats user data very responsibly and there should be no privacy concerns.

Siri’s terms of service per Apple  (page removed at Apple, here is the cached version)

As part of providing the Siri service, Apple collects two general types of data to enable Siri to become better at recognizing what you say and how you say things: User Data and Voice Input Data.
User Data sent to Apple enables Siri to help you when you say things like "Call Dad" or "How do I get to work from here?" Voice Input Data is used by Apple to process your request, to help Siri better recognize what you say and may be used generally to improve the overall accuracy and performance of Siri and other Apple products and services. Voice Input Data is associated with your verbal commands and may include: 
  • Audio recordings
  • Transcripts of what you said
  • Related diagnostic data, such as hardware and operating system specifications and performance statistics