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Question #92701 posted on 10/16/2019 11:06 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Does Siri still randomly turn on and listen/record things if Siri is turned off on your phone? I hear that Apple has recordings of private conversations, people sleeping together, and other such things because phones are designed to randomly turn on and record for "quality control."

Thanks,
suspicious

A:

Dear wary werf,

I assume you’re talking about this report from July, which describes Apple’s quality control program for Siri. According to the article, Apple used to sample recordings from people’s interactions with Siri and have contractors review them in order to record data about the quality of those interactions. Of course, it is exceptionally easy to inadvertently trigger Siri, so this program had some awkward results (as you mentioned) when recordings of people living their daily lives were sent to Apple to review. Even worse, Apple hadn't really disclosed to their customers that there was a potential for their Siri recordings to be placed on Apple servers and listened to by non-employees. Once the report came out about this program, Apple responded to the situation by suspending the program and issuing an apology.

Now, according to Apple Insider, they have reinstated the program, with some changes for privacy on the new beta for iOS 13.2:

“At the end of August, Apple completed its review and confirmed changes would be made, including the option to opt in for audio sample analysis, a process that could be opted out from at any time, and that only Apple employees would be allowed to listen to the samples. Apple would also no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions in favor of using computer-generated transcripts to improve Siri, and would also "work to delete" any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.”

If you’re worried about privacy and want to ensure that Apple isn't currently storing any recordings from your phone, here’s a helpful article from the Verge that shows you how to delete your recordings.

Best,

Josefina