Apple Announces Immediate Suspension of Controversial Siri Grading Program

Apple has announced the immediate global suspension of its controversial Siri grading program.

According to a new report from TechCrunch, 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.

“We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy,” Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch. “While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.”

In a similar development, Google said it will voluntarily halt listening in and transcribing Google Assistant recordings for three months in the EU, according to German data regulators.

“The use of automatic speech assistants from providers such as Google, Apple and Amazon is proving to be highly risky for the privacy of those affected,” the German data protection authority said. “This applies not only to people who run a speech assistant, but to all those who come into contact with it, for example if they live in a household in which devices such as Google Assistant are installed are used.”

Last week, The Guardian reported how Siri voice snippets containing “medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex” are being heard by contractors working for the company around the world.

Amazon also faces scrutiny over the way it reviews data captured by its Echo smart speakers. Bloomberg reported in April that a team of reviewers listens to a sample of recordings to assess the accuracy of Alexa’s transcriptions.