Privacy: Google stops transcribing Assistant recordings and Apple stops listening to Siri recordings

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Following the revelations that Apple contractors are listening to recordings of things people say to Siri, and Google workers are manually transcribing Assistant recordings, both companies have said they will cease the practice -- at least temporarily.

Both Apple and Google were "listening in" on recordings with a view to improving their respective digital assistants, but privacy concerns have forced them to take action. But while Apple is suspending its "grading" program worldwide, Google is only changing the way it operates in Europe.

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Apple had previously defended what it was doing by not only saying that the aim was solely to improve Siri, but also pointing to the fact that under one percent of daily Siri requests were listened to by a human. Now, however, the company has recognized the privacy concerns people have and will be introducing the option to opt out.

In a statement given to TechCrunch, Apple said:

We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy. While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.

Google's suspension of recording transcriptions came following a recent leak of audio snippets. A company spokesperson explained: "Shortly after we learned about the leaking of confidential Dutch audio data, we paused language reviews of the Assistant to investigate".

Transcription is due to be stopped for at least three months while the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HmbBfDI) carries out an investigation into the company and its compliance with GDPR privacy laws.

Image credit: Lori Butcher / Shutterstock

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