Sunday, May 24, 2020

Is Siri continuing to listen in despite Apple's apology?

A year ago iPhone and iPad users received early reports that Apple's voice assistant Siri was listening in to their conversations. A full apology from the company followed as Apple sought to bring in sweeping changes. However, a year on, it appears as though nothing has changed and user privacy continues to be at risk. 

Thomas le Bonniec, a whistleblower who had blown the lid off Apple's secret around listening in to Siri recordings last year, has now written a letter to all European data protection regulators claiming that Apple has ignored fundamental rights and is continuing with its data collection program. 

The letter, accessed by The Guardian, which broke the news last year, expressed concern over big tech companies "wiretapping entire populations" despite some robust data protections laws in the world. "Passing a law is not good enough: it needs to be enforced upon privacy offenders," le Bonniec has said. 

When the initial reports had surfaced last year, Apple had issued a statement in August apologising for "not fully living up to our high ideals" and followed it up with a software update in October. The update allowed users opt-in or out of voice recordings used for improving Siri dictation as well as to delete the stored recordings. 

In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook had taken to social media to share a video that detailed the company's security and privacy details in November 2019. 

Le Bonniec, who worked as a subcontractor for Apple transcribing user requests in English and French, says now that these recordings weren't limited to users but also involved families. It recorded everything from names, addresses to searches and conversations in the background, he says ascribing this as a reason for going public.

The problem isn't that Apple is continuing to wire-tap as this is not an isolated case. In the past Amazon, Facebook and Google have admitted to similar wrongdoings but the point here is that Apple has made privacy a selling point with the company's privacy page stating that "At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right."

Of course, the company did provide users with the ability to delete Siri recordings via the iOS 13.2 update, but these latest accusations by the whistleblower could cause some internal stirrings at the company's Cupertino headquarters. 

apple_privacy_policy

A new security challenge

In fact, security experts warn that Apple needs to be wary of another report around leaks of their upcoming iOS 14 operating system. A report on Motherboard says that leaked versions of the update are already with security researchers and hackers since February. It claims that someone obtained a development version of the iPhone 11 running iOS 14 and since then the codes have been circulating via Twitter. 

Security experts say that the real concern around this specific leak is that unlike others in the past, it has occurred several months before the release of the public beta version of the operating system that is supposed to arrive late in June. 

Here's how you can stay safe

In case iPhone and iPad users haven't made the security changes to keep Siri at bay, here is what you should be doing. Go to Settings > Privacy > Analytics & Improvement > Improve Siri & Dictation. Check the box and then again move to Settings > Siri & Search > Siri History. Now tap on 'Delete Siri & Dictation History'. 

You could also remove location tracking and third-party app integration with Siri for which you could visit Apple's privacy page right here

Via: The Guardian

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