Apple Apologizes Over Siri Audio Recordings, Announces Grading Program Privacy Changes

Apple plans to continue its Siri review program in the fall, but it will only get audio recordings from people who opt in to provide that data.

Facing questions regarding its actual commitment to user privacy in light of revelations that contractors were listening to audio samples from Siri devices, Apple published a press release today apologizing for not “fully living up to our high ideals,” and said that it will change its privacy policies as a result.

In early August, Apple announced that it would be ending the contractor program, and prior to today’s announcement, fired at least 300 contractors in Europe that were part of that program.

Apple had contractors listening to Siri conversations to help improve the voice assistant’s artificial intelligence, as it needed human guidance to improve the software through a process it calls “grading.”

Now, according to the press release from Apple’s Newsroom, the Cupertino company said that, by default, it will “no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions” but that it will still use “computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.” But users will be able to opt-in to help Apple improve Siri, and those who do will also be able to opt out whenever they want to.

Apple also said that only its own employees, not outside contractors, “will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions,” and that the team will “delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.”

Apple has released a special support document to explain the Siri grading procedures in more detail.