At long last, Apple has fully addressed its part in the ill-advised, industry-wide practice of using human contractors to listen in on conversations between its digital assistant – in this case, Siri – and users. The company made a formal apology.
Apple owned up to its practices and promised to end them in a comprehensive press release, detailing what it was doing, why, and how it will improve its Siri digital assistant without this assistance moving forward.
This apology is the result of the company's promise a month prior to suspend its use of contractors while it reviewed the intricacies of its process. Now, Apple has promised to stop using contractors completely in the process that it calls 'grading', in which these contractors would evaluate audio transcriptions of Siri conversations for accuracy.
"As a result of our review, we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize," Apple says in the press release.
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Siri improvements via humans will be opt-in
To make amends, Apple has detailed three things it will do between now and its next major operating system updates in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina later this year. First, the company "will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions," but will still use anonymized, computer-generated transcripts to improve the service.
Secondly (and thirdly, really), all iOS and macOS users will have to opt in if they want to contribute to Siri improvements by allowing anonymized audio samples of their conversations to be reviewed by fellow humans. Those humans will be Apple employees only, not contractors.
Of course, Apple hopes that you will continue to opt in for better Siri improvements in the future, knowing now that only Apple employees will be using these anonymized audio samples for that reason. (Not to mention Apple's self-proclaimed slavish devotion to user privacy.)
However, with its nigh-limitless resources, we're sure Apple can figure out how to improve Siri with or without our voices.
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