Your iPhone may have been recording your conversations with Siri

An iPhone 13 Pro with the screen on, against a white background
(Image credit: Apple)
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Apple has admitted that some iPhones have been recording their owners’ interactions with voice assistant Siri, even if instructed not to.

This state of affairs was caused by a bug introduced with iOS 15, which automatically enabled the “Improve Siri & Dictation” option. When active, this opt-in setting permits Apple to store its customers’ conversations with Siri for the purposes of analysis.

After Apple realized what had happened, the company took temporary steps to solve the issue for many users, before releasing a full fix with the second iOS 15.4 beta.

Siri has been listening

Of all the technology giants, Apple has the strongest reputation where user privacy is concerned; Google and Facebook hoover up vast amounts of behavioral data in support of their digital advertising efforts, while Amazon sits on a treasure trove of information relating to people’s buying habits, which fuels its recommendation engine.

An issue like the one recently discovered in iOS, therefore, is a serious problem for Apple from a reputational standpoint. In a statement provided to ZDNet, the company explained the actions it has taken to resolve the issue.

“With iOS 15.2, we turned off the Improve Siri & Dictation setting for many Siri users while we fixed a bug introduced with iOS 15,” wrote Apple.

“This bug inadvertently enabled the setting for a small portion of devices. Since identifying the bug, we stopped reviewing and are deleting audio received from all affected devices.”

This all sounds positive. However, the company has offered no real indication of the total number of customers that may have been affected, nor the quantity of the recordings collected in error that had already been analyzed by the time the bug was discovered.

Roughly a year ago, Apple estimated there were over one billion active iPhones in circulation. A “small portion” of these devices, therefore, could still equate to a rather large raw number.

TechRadar Pro has asked Apple for confirmation of the number of Siri users affected by the bug.

Via ZDNet (opens in new tab)

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.