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back to article Who's a Siri boy, then? Apple hoards your voices for TWO years

A leading UK privacy warrior has urged Apple to explain itself after the tech titan admitted Siri queries are kept on record for two years. Nick Pickles, director of pressure group Big Brother Watch, spoke out after the iPhone maker today revealed exactly how long it retains questions fired at its voice-controlled personal …

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Trollface

Now i hate apple....

So maybe it is just me, but

How the fuck can they delete data that has allegedly been anonymised?

either it ain't anonymised - in which case they are full-o-shit.

or they can't delete it - in which case they are full-o-shit.

either way, business as usual from cupertino

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now i hate apple....

Another Samsung employee in the house I see....

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Stop

Re: Now i hate apple....

Re-read the article. Data less than 6 months old is associated with the account by dint of an account number (so 3rd parties have no idea who you are). After that the number is deleted from the voice data leaving it completely anonymised and not delete-able).

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Re: Now i hate apple....

re-re-read the article....

to quote a great sage on the subject...

'leaving it completely anonymised and not delete-able'

pls see my original post!

QED

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Stop

Re: Now i hate apple....

@Naughtyhorse - I'm not following you. (1) The data is anonymous (at least as far as external and non-privileged viewers are concerned) but delete-able for the 1st 6 months. (2) After 6 months it can't be linked with an account at all and can only be removed by age. Where does it say in the article that data AFTER 6 months is associated and therefore is deleted?\

The value of the older voice samples to Apple is in tuning their voice recognition software, not what is said.

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Facepalm

Re: Now i hate apple....

Should not respond to trolls, but rather obviously there is metadata associated with every query; location, date/time stamps and user ID/device history etc that is used to give a suitable response.

After dropping the user id (and location?), purging old records using the date time stamps is a one line SQL delete command.

Developers working on voice recognition would love being able to replay millions of voice samples before and after algorithm tweaks, but given that storing the data has some cost associated with it (and diminishing returns adding more data), I would imagine Apple are keen to throw it away after a 6 months.

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Re: Now i hate apple....

The point at issue is one of an illogical statement

I get what it is that you fail to understand - you don't need to keep repeating it :-)

so third time's a charm.

clause 1:

apple say that if I discontinue siri they will delete all my data.

clause 2:

apple say that after 6 months my data (voice recording) is anonymised

Given that a) i was dumb enough to buy an iAnything in the first place. and b) after 12 months of asking siri where the nearest ER was and being directed to fan sites devoted to the excellent tv series, I discontinue the service.

Now, apple have stored every syllable that I have uttered to siri in the previous 12 months, 1/2 of which is tagged with some number that only apple can use to ID me (and I'm sure no amount of money from a data miner would change their mind - wink! wink!) The other 1/2 is still MY data, but anonymised (apart from the fact it's a recording of my voice FFS - so it kinda IS associated with me, what with it being my voice asking 'where's the best place to dispose of a dead body'? for eg) which they, as we have both pointed out, cannot delete, as they cannot identify it, but I or anyone who has engaged me in conversation for any length of time would be able to identify.

So why are they claiming they can delete all my data?

It is not possible. Just because they have removed a tag that _they_ use to id my data does not necessarily mean that it can't be identified. It's my voice! In case you are wondering I sound exactly like Morgan Freeman - see what i mean!

thats all

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Re: Now i hate apple....

Apple don't say that if you discontinue Siri then they will delete all your data, only that they'll delete the non-anonymised stuff. The article even has the relevant bit in bold:

If you turn off Siri, Apple will delete your user data, as well as your recent voice input data. Older voice input data that has been disassociated from you may be retained for a period of time to generally improve Siri and other Apple products and services.

As to your related point about whether voice data can really be anonymised, they could technically just be keeping the first-level stuff about pitches and rhythms that they extracted from the sound recording, which would identify you only in the same sense that written text with no associated author could identify you, but probably they just mean 'we won't store further user details with it'.

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Stop

Re: Now i hate apple....

Yet further down in the article, Apple SPOKESWOMAN Trudy Muller states:

“Apple may keep anonymised Siri data for up to two years,” Muller said. “If a user turns Siri off, both identifiers are deleted immediately along with any associated data. Our customers’ privacy is very important to us.”

BOTH IDENTIFIERS

They have a second identifier that permits them to track +6 months data. It is NOT therefore anonymous, but can be tied to a user. In defence of all commentards, the article contains contradictory information from Apple. But that's just business as usual too.

Now, no more Fanbois/Fandroid bitching please, it's sunny outside, go put the BBQ on :)

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Meh

Anonymous? Ho ho ho

Now your soon to be divorced wife knows this, how long before her lawyers demand a copy of your Siri searches....

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Re: Now i hate apple....

Looks to me as if that quote has been mangled by Wired, or there is something missing:

“If a user turns Siri off, both identifiers are deleted immediately along with any associated data. " doesn't make sense in context because only one identifier is ever mentioned in the article.

My guess is that the spokesdroid originally said: “If a user turns Siri off, both identifiers and data are deleted immediately along with any associated data. "

I also guess that he meant that any data associated with the ID is deleted, because - as you point out - you can't delete data no longer associated with it.

I have to say that if the data truly *is* dissociated from the ID after 6 months, but kept for 2 years to improve the service, it seems harmless and reasonable.

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Tel

Re: Now i hate apple....

Frankly I don't care... it's not as if anyone would ask Siri to do anything with their bank account number.

Basically all Apple has is a bunch of different voices asking about the weather, reminders to pick up shopping and asking the most important questions of all, namely "how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" and "what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?"...

Apple are hardly going to be equipping a fifth column with that useless information!

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Unhappy

Re: Now i hate apple....

"After that the number is deleted from the voice data leaving it completely anonymised and not delete-able)."

Timestamp anyone?

But really WTF 2 years.

Still better than the 5 yrs the UK police hold car license plate data

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Flame

Re: Now i hate apple....

Reading this thread it is becoming clear the kind of stupid required to be an iPunter

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Re: Now i hate apple....

why are you a member of a tech forum, you clearly are a tad confused here, I would expect that having 2 years worth of human voices to improve a service is a fairly good idea, test data is so hard to find.

who really cares if they have it, its not like its going to hurt anyone apart from the ones who ask

find me porn

talk dirty to me

how can i switch to a windows phone :)

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Re: Now i hate apple....

Do you hate Google with such vehemence as well?

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Re: Now i hate apple....

"apple say that if I discontinue siri they will delete all my data."

And anonymous data isn't 'yours', to their mind.

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Anonymous Coward

@ "Timestamps"

Duhhh, hello?

The database contains everybody's voice recordings.

You cannot use the timestamps or any other method to delete information belonging to a specific user, if it has been properly anonymised.

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Trollface

Uh-Oh

I bet all those queries you made about where to hide a body don't seem quite so funny now.

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Devil

Re: Uh-Oh

Hah!

> An "accident" occurs

> Get some gardening tools and hammer

> "Siri, where do I put bodies into a shallow grave where they won't be discovered for some time?"

> Siri says where

> Go there at night

> Start digging

> Soil is suspiciously easy to dig through and looks plowed up

> Discover a few bodies that someone put under somewhat earlier

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Uh-Oh

but if you are going to bury a body do it deeper and put a dead dog over the body (several feet of earth between them) if a cadaver dog find the body and it's dug up the police will think it was the dead dog, and (hopefully) not dig deeper to find the human body. that's according to reddit anyway.

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Happy

Re: Uh-Oh

Siri says where....Go there at night

FAIL...Siri would direct you to Maps...whereapon you chances of finding said location approaches the same odds as being struck by lightning. Fifteen times. While working in a coal mine.

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Unhappy

Anonymised?

This type of thing can't always anonymised. They may be able to remove the user ID but if the query is write email to jane bloggs, meet me in the highland hotel for some naughty stuff. Signed your very naughty boy.

this along with a date stamp would make it easier to work out who the composer was.

Also as it uses the spoken word matching key phases and such like would also enable you to match more than one message together.

All lots of work but all possible with enough power and that buzz word Big Data.

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Big Brother

Re: Anonymised?

Exactly. If they actually keep the voice recording, presumably to compare it with the query Siri "thought" it was to make the voice recognition better, then amassing one of the biggest voice print databases in the world should make it trivial to do pretty good matches between "anonymised" and known queries.

It certainly has me wary of the next generation's version of the McCarthy hearings.

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Re: Anonymised?

The problem with that is the quantity of data involved in trying to make the link. Which of the millions of users could have dictated the message is near impossible to determine. You'd need to know the exact content of the message to perform a reverse search. It would be much easier to simply search the cell phone companies records if you suspected someone.

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Re: Anonymised?

"amassing one of the biggest voice print databases in the world"

...and be able to link that with facial recognition from all those facebook pictures.

Anonymised after 6 months just means Apple store all the relevant information to your user profile in those 6 months.

The amount of data private firms are gathering is becoming terrifying.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Anonymised?

Forget that, it is your voice, so some kind of voice pattern analysis maybe?

Very scary stuff.....

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Re: Anonymised?

" quantity of data involved in trying to make the link."

you mean like google do a few million times a day.....

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Weird.

If people are sending their voice snips to some server, don't they expect it at least keeps very detailed statistics, both global and "anonymised personal"? As far as I'm concerned, I understand that "everything I send outside of private network is being stored, analyzed and used for a long period of time"... Not that I like it.

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Why do they even need it 6 months?

Maybe 6 minutes.

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jai
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Re: Why do they even need it 6 months?

i'm guessing they use all the past data to improve the ability of the current system to understand the different words people say to it. the more data they have, the better the output from their heuristic algorithms. the more real world data you have to work with the better for this type of system.

i doubt anyone else offering a similar service will be deleting the audio data immediately either.

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Big Brother

Re: Why do they even need it 6 months?

I agree, but remember that various law-enforcement agencies might also want to "have a listen" from time to time: I suspect that to all intents and purposes the data's anonymised until the FBI (or Westminster Council) want to link it to a possible suspect. Who needs all that expensive surveillance gear when you consumers will happily buy your own devices to monitor yourselves :-)

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Thumb Down

Voice anon?

Seriously, it'd be quite easy to connect the voice to any other available voice even if the userId has been "lost".

That even doesn't touch like write mail to XXX.

Yeah, what a dishonest statement.

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Holmes

Never Mind Privacy!

What would they want with all that crap for two years? How on earth did anyone get approval for the resources to store it at all, let alone for years?

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Sorry this doesn't ring true, and is possibly a lie. If they are an enterprise with an enterprise backup system that retains tapes off-site for longer than 2 years, it can still be associated with you if the backup is restored within that time period.

You would need to be able to guarantee the tapes had been destroyed to really be able to say your data is anonymised.

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed. This rings true like the "iMessage can't be hacked" shite that was going round last week. If you don't own the encryption key then you have no guarantee.

When it comes to Apple, networking and security you'll find more privacy from an ashtray on a motorbike.

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Alert

"tell my wife I love her"

If this is the case, Norman Thavaud could really be in trouble!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "tell my wife I love her"

« If this is the case, Norman Thavaud could really be in trouble! »

Hehe, bonne trouvaille ! :)

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Re: "tell my wife I love her"

I'm changing my email signature to read "Envoyé depuis un PC nul dans une salle de réseau pourrie sur un ordinateur de merde."

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Google does the same thing

Google Voice on Android has a "save samples for better recognition" checkbox but there is zero information on where it's saved (server, I assume) or how long.

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Re: Google does the same thing

Ah Gene, but you forget - Google/Android allows you to still use voice recognition without checking the box to save your queries. They give you a choice in that, unlike Apple.

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Re: Google does the same thing

It never ceases to surprise me how out of the trio Apple / Google / Microsoft, the least evil actually tends to be Google.

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Re: Google does the same thing

I am not amazed, google may say 'do no evil' but really I see that as is 'be the least evil'

And even with all their intrusive ads, they are the least evil...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google does the same thing

And you can use Gooogle voice recognition completely offline, without sending to the server for processing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google does the same thing

To be honest the "Do no evil" motto for Google has always made me feel uneasy, it tends to suggest they have considered doing evil and need reminding not to or they are using reverse psychology.

Makes me feel like every time my backs turned Google are rubbing their hands together making BWAHAHAHAHAH! style laughs

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Re: Google does the same thing

Since your privacy is Google's primary commercial currency, an even higher level of cynicism is warranted than with Apple. It's naive to imagine a switch completely erases all information, just as it's naive to imagine that the "power" switch of any electronic gadget can actually turn it completely off.

Having servants to do stuff for you has always had the down side that you have to tell them what you want.

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Big Brother

"Our customers’ privacy is very important to us"

<-- That's all.

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Speech recogniser training

Speech recognition in the cloud has given companies a reason/excuse to gather masses of training data. The masses of data have improved speech recognition performance a lot in recent years. Either we have good speech recognition and donate our data, or we have bad speech recognition. I actually think the former is a good deal.

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I quite like the idea...

... that somewhere in Wisconsin or Arkansas or wherever a server is holding a painstakingly indexed collection of twenty-odd recordings of me saying "Merry Hill Shopping Centre" from last weekend.

(In the end I gave up and kept driving to West Quay in Southampton.)

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Ignoring the obvious why do they need to keep it for so long just how can Apple claim that the data is anonymised?

They may not store metadata with it like the IMEI / IP you were using but given the advances in voice recognition there will always be the ability to scan the data looking for conversations that match Joe Bloggs voice print.

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