Apple is reportedly suspending a program ‘grading’ from its platforms globally after a whistleblower exposed it to the Guardian Newspaper that the program can let contractors hear confidential conversations.
“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,” the company said in a statement to the outlet.
Last week, The Guardian broke the news that Apple lets contractors listen to snippets of Siri recordings, often hearing confidential conversations including “medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples in love.” Apple confirmed the existence of the program, called “grading,” and said it was part of its quality control for Siri.
The “grading” practice is extremely worrying from a user privacy perspective. The anonymous whistleblower who’d described the process to The Guardian said that even though his task was to focus on technical problems and not contents of the conversations themselves, it “wouldn’t be difficult to identify the person you’re listening to.”
Apple defended the program, saying it looks at less than 1 per cent of daily Siri conversations, and that its contractors are under strict confidentiality agreements.
And Apple doesn’t seem to be giving up on the program entirely — the wording of the company’s statement suggests the program would be opt-in for participants.
There’s no word on when, exactly, the program would be reinstated.
Apple is not the only company that has conducted this type of program to improve a digital assistant — Amazon and Google have been doing something similar as well.