August 8, 2018
In the aftermath of numerous reports that Amazon’s Alexa speakers were “accidentally” listening in, and in some cases recording the conversations of their owners, on Tuesday Apple responded to US lawmakers whether its iPhones invade users’ privacy and listen in on conversation without their consent: Apple’s response: a resounding “no”, and added that it does not allow third-party apps to do so either, after lawmakers asked the company if its devices were invading users’ privacy.
Representatives Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta wrote to Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook and Alphabet chief executive Larry Page in July, citing concerns about reports that smartphones could “collect ‘non-triggered’ audio data from users’ conversations near a smartphone in order to hear a ‘trigger’ phrase, such as ‘Okay Google’ or ‘Hey Siri.’”
In a letter to Walden, an Oregon Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Apple said iPhones do not record audio while listening for Siri wakeup commands and that Siri does not share spoken words. Apple also vowed that it requires users to explicitly approve microphone access and that apps must display a clear signal that they are listening, which of course .
“We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely design our products and services to minimize our collection of customer data,” Apple executive Timothy Powderly wrote in the leter to Walden. “The customer is not our product, and our business model does not depend on collecting vast amounts of personally identifiable information to enrich targeted profiles marketed to advertisers.”
Which is great for Apple, because virtually every other social media’s business model depends on precisely that.
The letters, in which lawmakers cited reports suggesting third-party applications had…