Snippet: Apple Suspends Siri Response Grading in Response to Privacy Concerns ☇

Shared on August 2, 2019

Matthew Panzarino for TechCrunch:

In response to concerns raised by a Guardian story last week over how recordings of Siri queries are used for quality control, Apple is suspending the program world wide. Apple says it will review the process that it uses, called grading, to determine whether Siri is hearing queries correctly, or being invoked by mistake.

In addition, it will be issuing a software update in the future that will let Siri users choose whether they participate in the grading process or not.

The Guardian story from Alex Hern quoted extensively from a contractor at a firm hired by Apple to perform part of a Siri quality control process it calls grading. This takes snippets of audio, which are not connected to names or IDs of individuals, and has contractors listen to them to judge whether Siri is accurately hearing them — and whether Siri may have been invoked by mistake.

Although the terms and conditions to use Siri had language to indicate this was happening, I’d venture to guess that most people didn’t fully understand it or even take the time to read the fine print. The easiest way to make voice assistants better is by analyzing what was heard versus what was interpreted, and real humans analyzing that makes sense. I think it’s a good move that Apple still is erring on the side of transparency and also offering a control—the data may not be as good or widespread, but I think they’ll still have enough to work with.

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