After Criticism, Apple Puts an End to Third-Party Companies Listening to Siri

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As great as digital personal assistants, such as Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, etc. are, everyone began to realize that the assistants are still digital, meaning they’re keeping data, and the multiple requests and/or conversations you have are on record somewhere.

Privacy-focused Apple has reversed one of its policies and has stopped the practice of listening to Siri recordings. They had previously admitted they were making these recording available to third-party contractors.

Only Siri Is Listening

Once invoked on an Apple device, Siri will send you a message that reads, “Go ahead … I’m listening.” But it really should say “we’re listening,” or maybe even “whoever wants to is listening.”

It was recently reported that some Siri questions or conversations were being listened to for “grading purposes.” The Guardian reported the requests were being “analyzed to improve Siri and dictation.”

Along with that, it was noted that “User requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID. Siri responses are analyzed in secure facilities, and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements.”

Yet, it was noted that the third-party contractors who were given access to the Siri responses accidentally heard “confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.”

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Apple has always been known for being privacy-focused, so this didn’t sit well with their users. It’s expected out of Google but Apple loyalists don’t expect it.

The company will allow users the opportunity to opt out of sharing practices in a future update, but for now, they are ending the practice of Siri listening.

“We are committed to developing a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy,” vowed Apple in a statement. “While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, others will have the ability to choose to participate in this or opt out.

There are many good things in this, although it’s reasonable that many users won’t trust Apple that they are really ending the practice. However, Google is not known to stop any of their anti-privacy practices, and Amazon has never suspended the practice while working on a solution.

What You Can Do Now

If you don’t trust Apple when they say they are suspending the practice until a software update can fix it, you can visit this article where it details different options for stopping Apple from listening in on your conversations with Siri.

But above all, no matter what Apple, Amazon, and Google promise about the digital voice assistants, it’s probably best to just assume you’re always being listened to and to not discuss anything private.

Does any of this put you at ease? Or are you still very bothered that Apple was doing this with Siri all along? Let us know what you think about Apple’s Siri habits and the suspension of the practice in the comments below.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.


  1. “Privacy-focused Apple has reversed one of its policies and has stopped the practice of listening to Siri recordings.”
    If Apple is so “privacy-focused”, why did they listen to Siri recordings in the first place?!

    1. Apple is the only one I’d still trust. They wouldn’t even allow a court investigation to hand over your personal information to Uncle Sam.

      1. Fruitco Faithful believe Apple can do no wrong just like Window Fans are convinced MS is above reproach.

        Allowing the Feds access ti iPhones would not make money for Apple. Allowing their partners to go through the SIri data could and will.

    2. “If Apple is so “privacy-focused”, why did they listen to Siri recordings in the first place?!”

      To improve Siri so it makes fewer errors in interpreting what’s being said to it.

      Although, technically, it isn’t *Apple* (meaning living human beings working at Apple) that is listening to the recordings, any more than it’s *Google* (meaning living human beings working at Google) that’s reading e-mails…it’s all done by AI’s. In Google’s case, the AI is looking for words and phrases to try and determine what you’re talking about so it can add the topic to your profile.

      In Apple’s case, one of the things the other AI is looking for in the recordings are requests that Siri misinterprets and that the user asks in different ways to try and get Siri to interpret the request correctly…not that it’s only Siri that has this problem; I imagine that Google’s and Amazon’s “assistants” do as well (and if so, you can bet your bottom dollar that Google and Amazon are/were doing the same thing that Apple is/was doing). The most recent public example of this is a radio ad that Ikea recently ran (up here in Canada, anyway) in which Ikea-guy is trying to get his device’s “assistant” (which sounds a lot like Siri) to give him directions to the nearest Ikea store. The “assistant” misinterprets the request and Ikea-guy tries making the request several different ways, all of which are comically misinterpreted, before finally giving up and saying in a sad, dejected voice “Ikea is having a sale”. Apple is analyzing the recordings (at least in part) with the hope that Siri can be improved so that kind of thing doesn’t happen so often.

      (for the record, the ad continues with a “professional” voice-over describing the sale, ending by encouraging people to go to Ikea, at which point the “assistant” jumps back in with “Getting directions to Ikea”, to which Ikea-guy responds in disgust with *Oh, come ON”. One thing I’ll say about Ikea…while I generally hate ads, Ikea does make some good/funny/entertaining ones.)

      1. If it was only Apple that was using the Siri recordings to improve its accuracy, I would agree with you. However, note the title “Apple Puts an End to Third-Party Companies Listening to Siri”. AFAIK, third parties do not develop/maintain Siri software. The only reason for allowing third parties access to the Siri recordings is monetary, i.e. selling of user data.

        BTW – Amazon recently announced that they will stop recording Alexa requests. Either Amazon feels that Alexa is accurate enough or that the privacy of their customers is more important than some data that could be harvested.

        1. As a recent buyer of an Amazon Echo Show 5, I can tell you how it works. Amazon now gives users an option to share their data to help them improve the system or delete the recordings.

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