While promising changes in its policies, an apology was tendered by Apple over the issue of allowing third party contractors to listen to the commands that users of its voice assistant Siri gave to it.
Following a report in the newspaper The Guardian last month, this practice of Apple, which the company claimed was aimed at enhancing the quality of Siri, was severely criticized from multiple quarters because it allowed third party contractors to listen to the private conversations of the users with their virtual assistants. Earlier this month, Apple had temporarily suspended the practice and reviewed it thoroughly.
In a change of policy, Apple announced in the blog post on Wednesday that from now on, the company would seek permission from the users of Siri to allow the listening of their recordings by human reviewers and removed the clause that had made the practice a default one. Additionally, the company company also announced that those recordings for which the users give permission to be heard, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to the audio samples instead of third party contractors.
Apple would also no longer keep audio recordings of users’ interactions with Siri, the company said.
“We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process,” Apple said in the post. “As a result of our review, we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize.”
In addition to Apple, there are other companies too that have been forced to review their policies and practices for listening to and reviewing of such recordings because of privacy concerns. Human reviews of its recordings was temporarily halted by Google while a change in its setting was made recently by Amazon which made it easier for users of its virtual assistant Alexa to opt out of review of their voice recordings. Human review of some users’ audio clips has also been temporarily halted by Facebook.
The etch companies have been forced to make these moves following extended scrutiny of the practices in the media wherein the tech companies relied on real people to for reviewing of the recordings from voice assistants without the user knowing it or giving permission for such a review. This debate and scrutiny has also brought to the surface the fact that many of the consumer tech products are not only supported by faceless algorithms and artificial intelligence but also require human support and touch to enhance the quality of the services.
According to some to experts of artificial intelligence, it is necessary for humans to listen to some portions of the conversation that consumers have with their virtual assistants in order to make the voice-operated technology function properly. However the experts also opined that consumers should be properly informed about what happens to recordings from these systems and the privacy risks associated with such practices.
(Adapted from CNN.com)