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Is Siri always listening to your conversations? Put another way: Is your iPhone spying on you?
After all, how could it not be if Siri can hear and respond when you say, “Hey, Siri”?
We know that our Amazon Alexas are always listening and recording, and people are constantly freaked out about Facebook listening (especially when an ad shows up minutes after you had a conversation about a product with a friend). So, naturally, Congress wondered about this, too. In fact, it asked Apple to give us some answers. Here are the highlights:
Apple’s business model
One of the things that Apple addressed is that it is very different than companies like Facebook and Google; companies that rely on customer data to thrive. Apple explained that, based on its business model, they collect only minimum amounts of data from its customers, and it keeps that information anonymous. That anonymized data is used to better understand its customers so it can ultimately improve its products; Facebook and Google, conversely, collect data so they can sell it to advertisers.
Is Siri always listening?
No. Apple says that Siri is not eavesdropping at all. Instead, the software’s ability to respond to a voice command is programmed in. So, it’s not really listening at all times. The iPhone can only hold a small amount of audio, and it only records what happens after it is triggered by the “Hey, Siri” command. The recording is sent to Apple, but it is connected to an anonymous number.
Can third-party apps listen in?
You might also wonder if a third-party app can record you. They cannot—unless they get consent. Not only do they have to get consent, they have to tell the user what they are planning on doing with the recording. They also have to give some type of visual cue on screen that the app is recording.
This sounds great, but there’s a caveat…Apple doesn’t always monitor the apps to ensure they are compliant. Though all apps have to go through a review process to appear in the App Store, once through the gate, there’s little oversight. So, use caution when you are giving these apps permission to collect your information and to record you.
The takeaway here is that Apple says it’s doing its best to make sure that the iPhones it produces are not spying on our lives. It has policies in place to help ensure this. But above all, make sure you use caution when giving any apps permission to access your microphone. If it isn’t absolutely essential to the app’s functionality, do not give it access.
You should also always ensure your device’s security is up to date with the newest version of your OS. And make sure you’re using a password to protect your device (with at least 6 numbers) and install Hotspot Shield for free to encrypt your data when at home or when connected to open, free WiFi networks—like you’d find at a coffee shop or airport.