The third-party contractors who “graded” Siri requests were expected to listen to more than 1,000 interactions with Siri each shift, one such contractor who was abruptly terminated this week told The Irish Examiner.
According to the report, Apple hired about 300 people on fixed-term contracts as data analysts tasked with transcribing and grading of Siri audio recordings from customer’s interactions with the voice assistant. Grading was based on a bunch of different factors, including whether the activation of Siri was accidental or if the query was something the voice assistant could or couldn’t assist with.
Contractors regularly listened to 1,000+ Siri recordings each shift. One former employee said the recordings were about a few seconds long, and occasionally they would hear personal data or snippets of conversations when Siri was triggered accidentally. They also signed a non-disclosure agreement barring them from discussing what they did in detail.
“They were about a few seconds long, occasionally we should hear personal data or snippets of conversation,” the source said. “But mostly it would be Siri commands.”
Additionally, the contractor maintained that every Siri user’s identity was kept anonymous. It’s worth noting that the third-party firm, Ireland-based Globetech, seemed to mostly deal with Apple users in the United Kingdom and Europe.
“Mostly it was users with Canadian, Australian or UK accents and there was a smaller team working on users with European languages,” the contractor said, adding that there was also a “small number” of recordings from Irish users.
The program became a controversial news topic because Siri grading had been happening without Apple users’ knowledge, which prompted the company to shut down the initiative globally “while we conduct a thorough review.”
Apple will implement a toggle in a future iOS update to let customers decide whether or not they would like to help make Siri better by choosing to participate in the grading process. Following Apple’s example, other Silicon Valley giants also suspended their voice assistant grading programs, namely Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.