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Apple Decides to Eliminate Siri Grading by ending Contracts with workers Manning the Project until this Fall

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Report update 8:30 a.m. PST: Apple publishes a press release on the matter.


At the top of the month Patently Apple posted a report titled "With Apple's Siri "Grading" in the Privacy Spotlight, Apple Decides to Temporarily Suspend the Practice." Today Apple has reportedly gone one step further and ended the Siri Grading Project as it stands today. It's to return later this fall according to a new Apple press release.


More than 300 employees had their contracts ended in the company’s Cork facility alone, according to former employees, with more sent home from other sites across Europe.


The decision followed a story in the Guardian that revealed the workers frequently heard confidential medical information and couples having sex while checking the Siri recordings.


Last week the contracting firms for the grading project were told by Apple that the grading work would be terminated, leading to the mass job losses with little notice.


One former contractor who asked to remain anonymous due to a still-active non-disclosure agreement stated that "We’ve all been laid off after the scandal, with no protection against this. More than 300 at once just in Cork, with no redundancy, just one week’s notice."


The next software update to iOS, the operating system that runs iPhones, is expected in early October and was likely to be the first occasion where the company would have been able to implement a promised opt-out to the Siri grading system. The job losses suggest, instead, that Apple is not planning to resume the grading project in the immediate future.


For more on this and what the disgruntled ex-contracted workers think of this, read The Guardian report. Below is in-part is Apple's press release on this subject matter where they note the the Siri Grading Program will resume this fall.


Apple: Improving Siri’s Privacy Protections


At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right. We design our products to protect users’ personal data, and we are constantly working to strengthen those protections. This is true for our services as well. Our goal with Siri, the pioneering intelligent assistant, is to provide the best experience for our customers while vigilantly protecting their privacy.


We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process — which we call grading. We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri as a result.


As a result of our review, we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize. As we previously announced, we halted the Siri grading program. We plan to resume later this fall when software updates are released to our users — but only after making the following changes:


  • First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.


  • Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.


  • Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.


Apple is committed to putting the customer at the center of everything we do, which includes protecting their privacy. We created Siri to help them get things done, faster and easier, without compromising their right to privacy. We are grateful to our users for their passion for Siri, and for pushing us to constantly improve. Read Apple's full press release here for more details.


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