After the furore that erupted when it became known that Apple was listening to people’s conversations with Siri, the company abruptly stopped this practice. A new report recently revealed that until then, Apple listened to thousands of Siri conversations.
The third-party contractors who had to rate Siri requests had to listen to over a thousand interactions during every shift. When this became public knowledge, Apple reportedly summarily ended its contract with at least one of these contractors.
A former Siri contractor has now revealed that they had to rate Siri interactions on whether they were accidental or intentional, and whether Siri was able to help or not. They “occasionally” heard snippets of personal conversations or personal data. The unnamed contractor insisted though that users’ identities remained confidential.
One of these contractors was Globetech, based in Cork, Ireland. It claims to have mainly dealt with users from the UK and Europe, though Australian and Canadian accents were also extremely common. A “small number” of Irish users could also be heard interacting with Siri.
In July, an anonymous whistleblower told the Guardian about the practice of using people to listen and grade Siri recordings. They said that they regularly listened to personal discussions about business deals, medical issues, and other confidential matters.
Following the report in The Guardian, Apple stopped this practice and announced an intensive review of the whole issue. The Irish contractor said that this caused a “clampdown” at Globetech, with graders no longer allowed to bring their smartphones to work.
The company subsequently sent a letter to employees saying that its contract with Apple had been terminated. According to the Irish Examiner, this likely negatively affected many contract-based employees.
Apple responded with typical corporate gobbledygook, saying: “We’re working closely with our partners as we (review the grading process) to ensure the best possible outcome for our suppliers, their employees and customers around the world.”
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