Apple users’ privacy may be at risk, as Apple finally revealed to Wired that Siri data is kept for 2 years even though that is not mentioned on Apple’s FAQs about Siri. In March 2012 the American Civil Liberties Union raised the issue about Siri privacy and claimed that the Apple Privacy Policy was unclear but Siri did collect “User Data” including the following:

  • The names of your address book contacts, their nicknames, and their relationship with you (for example, “my dad”, or “work”)
  • Your first name and nickname
  • Labels you assign to your email accounts (for example, “My Home Email”)
  • Names of songs and playlists in your collection

More than a year later, on April 19, 2013 an Apple spokesperson responded to Wired that Apple “may keep anonymized Siri data for up to two years,” but Apple:

…takes steps to ensure that the data is anonymized and only collects the Siri voice clips in order to improve Siri itself.
…If a user turns Siri off, both identifiers are deleted immediately along with any associated data.”

Wired went to explain:

Here’s what happens. Whenever you speak into Apple’s voice activated personal digital assistant, it ships it off to Apple’s data farm for analysis. Apple generates a random numbers to represent the user and it associates the voice files with that number. This number — not your Apple user ID or email address — represents you as far as Siri’s back-end voice analysis system is concerned.

Once the voice recording is six months old, Apple “disassociates” your user number from the clip, deleting the number from the voice file. But it keeps these disassociated files for up to 18 more months for testing and product improvement purposes.

Since the Apple Siri privacy policy is unclear about how Apple maintains and uses Siri data this information about keeping data for 2 years is likely a surprise to everyone. Apple’s lack of candor about privacy should concern everyone given the scope of Apple’s products.

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