Siri Stores Your Secrets but Will She Rat You Out?
Apple stores your Siri requests in the cloud for as long as two years, but the company says the info is all anonymous. CIO.com blogger Bill Snyder suggests you still exercise caution when asking for Siri's help.
It turns out that Siri, the sweet-voiced companion on your iPhone, is actually a blabbermouth. “She” keeps users’ query information on Apple’s servers for as long as two years, according to a report by Wired.
Apple essentially confirmed the Wired report and said the data is made anonymous and is tied to a random number, not the iPhone’s discrete ID or phone number, so user privacy is not compromised.
Sorry, Apple. I don’t want to put my information at risk.
I don’t think Apple is lying or planning anything nefarious, but the history of data leaks by that company and many others should make you very nervous.
You might recall that last summer hackers posted 1 million identification numbers for Apple iPhones, iPads and iPod Touchs, all of which were purportedly stolen from the FBI. There have been any number of serious data breaches in the last few years, ranging from Dropbox files to leaks at major banks and healthcare providers. And when we learned that Google Street View cars had scooped up nearby IP addresses, Google at first said no personal data was compromised. Google said the collection was accidental. The real story was much darker, though, and there was a whole lot of lying going on.
You may not realize it, but when you ask Siri a question she forwards it to the cloud, or Apple’s servers. The question is analyzed, answered, sent back to the device and, as it turns out, stored. Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller told Wired that the data is used to improve Siri’s accuracy, and that “[I]f a user turns Siri off, both identifiers are deleted immediately along with any associated data.”
Apple kind of, sort of, discloses this if you go to your iPhone’s Siri settings. But the disclosure is rather vague, and it doesn’t say the data is kept for so long. Nor is it clear in the online Siri FAQs.
It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario in which the data leaks, either by accident or via a hacker attack, so I’d think twice about asking Siri for anything you don’t want revealed. I’ll resist the temptation to make some snarky insinuations here, but I bet you know exactly what I mean.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.