Last week there was a lot of fuss about Apple employees listening (a small percentage) to the commands given to Siri. This was done in the context of quality control, but sometimes confidential information was also picked up. That’s why Apple said it would stop temporarily until giving consent is better and more transparent.
Although Google and Amazon have a similar human quality check, Apple does not do this well. At Google, for example, it is possible to disable this function via a privacy menu. Saved recorded commands can also be deleted. At Apple you can also delete recorded commands, but it is cumbersome.
That is how Apple keeps Siri conversations
A brief summary of the facts. As can be read in the iOS Secutiy Guide, all commands Siri receives are stored for six months. After six months, Apple makes an unidentifiable copy (the company does not explain the difference) and stores it for up to two years. After two years, Apple retains a small portion of the quality assurance commands. Some of those discussions ended up with external employees so that they could check the accuracy of the answers.
Delete saved calls
Unfortunately, Apple does not have a nice portal or option to listen to or delete stored commands. It is still possible to delete the saved conversations, but you have to switch off Siri and dictation.
- Go to ‘Settings’ → ‘Siri and search’ and switch off the options ‘Listen to Hé Siri’ and ‘Press the side button for Siri’.
- Go to ‘Settings’ → ‘General’ → ‘Keyboard’ and switch off dictation at the bottom.
Only if all of these options are disabled will recordings be deleted from Apple servers. You don’t have to do anything for the Apple Watch. Siri remains active on the HomePod even if the assistant on the iPhone is switched off. You can disable the virtual assistant via the HomePod settings in the Home app.
Also on the Mac you have to turn off both Siri and dictation to delete the data. Do this as follows:
- Go to ‘System Preferences’ → ‘Siri’ and disable the options ‘Listen to Hé Siri’ and ‘Activate ask Siri’.
- Go to “System Preferences” → “Keyboard” → “Dictate” and disable dictation altogether.
Not every Mac has support for Hé Siri and this option will therefore not be visible everywhere. If your Mac does not support this, all you have to do in the first step is to disable “Activate Ask Siri.”
Do for every device
These actions must be done on every device with macOS and iOS that you have (iPhone, iPad and iPod, Mac). Stored calls are not linked to an Apple ID but to each device individually. By reactivating the Siri or dictation, the data collection process restarts. You do have a new and anonymous ID, but recordings are saved again.
In case it’s not clear: the only way not to keep recordings is to completely disable Apple’s virtual assistant and dictation. Google and Amazon allow you to use their assistant without storing voice recordings. By default, saving conversations is on, but it is not mandatory. Apple has a lot of work to do to live up to its reputation as the privacy company on this point.