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Nuance Responds to Dragon Dictation for iPhone Privacy Concerns

Nuance's Dragon Dictation for iPhone raised some privacy concerns upon launch due to the server-side nature of its transcription and the apparent transmission of users' contact list to Nuance's servers. Addressing at least some of these concerns, Nuance has posted the following statement:

Some people have expressed concern about what the new Dragon Dictation for the iPhone application does with your contact information. As you may have experienced already, Dragon Dictation for the iPhone goes through your contact list on your iPhone and uploads the names to our server. We do this for a pretty simple reason: we found that people are often dictating names from their address book and expect the names to be recognized. We take this information and create an anonymous user profile for your device that understands what names are likely to dictate into a document. It's important to note that we only upload the names, not the e-mail addresses, phone numbers or any other personally identifying information from your contacts.

Even though there is no personally identifying information, we still treat all of this information with the highest privacy standards. All of our servers are located in the United States and meet the most stringent privacy and security standards. We conform to these high standards because we use the same data centers for other areas of our business where we are required to store personal information.

All of this is spelled out in our license agreement that comes with the Dragon Dictation for the iPhone application. Since most people only see that license agreement briefly when they are installing the software (and they usually can't wait to start using their software, so they don't spend 30 minutes reading a complex legal document...), we provided a link to that agreement here: http://www.nuance.com/company/privacy/.

So the bottom line is that nothing scary is happening with your data and we only use a little bit of information from your phone to help make the dictation accuracy as high as possible. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to post them here.

Michael Thompson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Nuance Mobile

Of course, Nuance is storing all your transcriptions on their servers, which while not dissimilar to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, or Apple storing all your email, documents, location, etc. is an important factor for users to keep in mind so as to make informed decisions about services and the companies behind them.

Let us know what you think of the statement, and if it does indeed address your concerns (or not).

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Nuance Responds to Dragon Dictation for iPhone Privacy Concerns

31 Comments

To compare dictation software to email and word processing services is a bit of a stretch. We all know that the latter services have to be stored on a server or in the cloud to be accessed anywhere. That is the basis of their appeal. I can't imagine how storing a voice memo on an offsite server makes the dictation any more accurate or helps any of their customers in any way.

To Scoot:
It doesn't say anything about uploading and storing "a voice memo on an offsite server"- it only stores the names in the contact list- names only.
Dragon Naturally Speaking has been around for over a decade and their services are great. I think it's a fair trade off to have them store my contact list (which is only for my benefit), in exchange for having a great app on my iPhone.

So.. how do you remove all of those names and contact list information after you've decided you don't want to give that so 'safe' cloud somewhere in on the net?

In order for nuance to dictate your message it is uploaded to their servers. So it's not just your contact list it is the actual message and transcription of that message. If I am not mistaken.

Eh, I'm just not sure I buy this after-the-fact statement. I think users should be given the option to do this. If they want to have the names of their contacts added to the server to enhance the use of this app, they should be able to select the option to do so. Otherwise, they should be able to opt out. It makes me leery enough that I won't use the app until this issue is addressed.

I think people keep overlooking the fact that the app works like a charm. I am really excited to see what becomes of it. If they add a few more features it will never leave page 1 homescreen

The app worked great ... but i tried it on my old iPhone 3G which had no contacts ... I am concerned because i have my work contacts on my 3GS iPhone and i don't want them to be uploaded to somewhere were i don't have the option to delete them.

@don

So.. how do you remove all of those names and contact list information after you’ve decided you don’t want to give that so ’safe’ cloud somewhere in on the net?

Settings / Dictation / Reset enrollment

Who mentions their contacts by name in the body of messages or emails? Don't they already know you're specifically communicating with them.

The app works great, plus it was free. However, I would not have downloaded the app if I knew that my contacts would be stored on a server.
Could be ignorance on my part but I like to know what I am downloading on my phone ahead if time.

Here's a thought. If you don't like the EULA of the application, don't download it. It's free and no one is forcing anyone to use it. Personally, I think all of this living in the cloud stuff is going to bite all of us in the rear someday. All the free email, free word processing, free navigation, free every dang thing. You'd have to be daft to not think that there is not an agenda behind all that info Google is so freely storing for us.
No one seems to mind when it has the Google name attached to it but anything else seems to be something evil. I'm not saying that it's NOT evil, just that Google is in the same boat and shouldn't be immune to the scrutiny because of name recognition.
If you think that's a paranoid rant, just ask IBM. Anything "cloud" based is strictly forbidden in their shop.

Is this some kind of joke? WHO CARES if they store your contacts anonymously on their servers? All the conspiracy nuts here need to CALM DOWN.

fastlane- when you reference someone to a third party you do.
or when writing a note like "give John Smith _____"
or addressing a formal letter
etc

This company clearly states in their "legal document" that they store your contact's names as well as the transcribed data you dictate. I know when you write an email you upload your text after you send it. This is different. They upload your VOICE before you send it.

Nice to hear a response from the company, but doesnt address concerns. Uploading contacts should be an optional feature. Wont be using or recommend this app untill it is! Too bad since it sounds so promising...

@IPG: And what covert secret agency do you work for that you feel like they are going to clamor to read the banter in your emails and text messages? Seriously, some people here act as if they work for the Secret Service.
Those that have serious concerns over privacy don't use iPhone's or GMail anyway...

What does a contact list have to do with emails and text messages?
Obviously an individual wouldnt choose to use the dication software for something they thought was sensitive. The issue here is you dont get a choice in allowing your information to be uploaded to the server.

Let me clarify, I meant the information regarding your contacts (in this case Dragon states it is just contact names).

OMG you mean they will know that I have a contact named Brian Abcxyz, but won't have any other information about hime (phone, email, etc). THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!! Just think of all the things they could do with that name!!
/sarcasm

All my contact info is stored - attached to me and all of my info, plus some documents - on Google's servers. Would my life be over if someone got a hold of that? No. Why would someone want to use that info in a way that could harm me?

@Kevin:
Of course. But I can't even remember the last time I mentioned anyone else in a message or email.
This seems to be far too trivial of a concern to me.

Why is it necessary to store the transcription, after it's been sent back to the user's iphone? Nuance just needs the uploaded voice message to make its service work. I send a lot of emails to clients, which contain attorney-client privileged information, so contrary to some of the statements by others who've responded to the Nuance position, there could, in fact, be problems if the security protecting the stored transcriptions were to be compromised.

Please elaborate on the "reset enrollment" Option in Dragon settings.
Does "on" secure my data, or would I want to keep it unchecked?
Thanks.

App says things are being saved to clipboard - because some dictations contain often-repeated phrases, can "my" clipboard be accessed by me to save even more time (cutting and pasting)?
BTW: KILLER app!!

Legal notice Use of services
"Any material, information or other communication you transmit or post to this Site will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary ("Communications"). Nuance will have no obligations with respect to the Communications. Nuance and its designees will be free to copy, disclose, distribute, incorporate and otherwise use the Communications and all data, images, sounds, text, and other things embodied therein for any and all commercial or non-commercial purposes."
That sounds to me like they can do anything with your information that they want to. Too scary for me.

Oh yawn, you stupid people. The upload names are stored anonomously for gods sake. Do you also freak out that your name, address and phone number are printed in the public phone book, like they have been forever?
Pinny's comment says it all. It's such a joke reading forum comments. Iidiots and conspiricists abound. But then again I have to remind myself the average IQ is 100 after all. Which means half the people out there have a two digit IQ.

What concerns me about the voice being processed on their servers, especially if it's stored, is the possibility of abuse of intellectual property. You can encrypt emails. This thing could be used for spying. I'm surprised more people aren't concerned.

Not everyone using Dragon is sending cake recipes to thier friends. That severely limits this app to the very casual user. But I guess that's why it's free.

There are other options, yes?