Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) is “in contact” with Apple after a former Apple contractor asked the DPC to investigate Apple’s practice of allowing employees to listen to Siri recordings, reports Reuters.
The contractor, Thomas Le Bonniec, requested the assistance of the DPC in May and called for greater protection under the EU’s privacy laws.
DPC Deputy Commissioner Graham Doyle said that the DPC “engaged with Apple” when the Siri issue first arose last year, and Apple “made some changes,” but now the DPC has additional questions.
“However, we have followed up again with Apple following the release of this public statement and await responses,” he said, in reference to the letter. “In addition, it should be noted that the European Data Protection Board is working on the production of guidance in the area of voice assistant technologies.”
Last July, contractors working on Siri quality control told The Guardian that they were listening to Siri audio recordings for Apple and regularly heard sensitive information that Apple device owners might not want shared, even with the data anonymized.
Apple came under fire for concealing the quality control practice and not making it clear to customers that some Siri recordings are listened to by employees for quality control purposes.
Apple in August 2019 ultimately suspended its Siri quality control program to overhaul how it works. Later in August, Apple ended all transcription and voice grading work done through contracting companies.
In October, with the release of iOS 13.2, Apple added a toggle that allows users to opt out of sharing voice recordings to improve Siri and Dictation, and it provided a way to delete all Siri and Dictation history.
Apple resumed Siri quality control practices in the fall with the release of the opt-out option. Siri quality control is no longer handled by third-party contractors and is done in-house, and Apple has made changes to minimize the amount of data that reviewers have access to.
Along with further scrutiny from Irish regulators, Apple is facing a class-action lawsuit for allowing contractors to listen to and grade the anonymized Siri conversations for quality control purposes.