IBM bans the use of Siri on its networks due to privacy concerns

If you work for IBM, you are welcome to bring your iPhone 4S to work with you but forget about using Apple's voice driven digital assistant, Siri. IBM has banned the use of Siri on all of its networks due to concerns over privacy. Siri works by sending anything you ask it to a data center in North Carolina; after that, no one really knows exactly what happens with that data once it has been dealt with. Is it deleted once it has been dealt with, is it stored temporarily or is it kept forever?

IBM CIO Jeanette Horan told MIT's Technology Review this week that her company has banned Siri outright because, according to the magazine, "The company worries that the spoken queries might be stored somewhere." It turns out that Horan is right to worry. In fact, Apple's iPhone Software License Agreement spells this out: "When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text," Apple says. Siri collects a bunch of other information — names of people from your address book and other unspecified user data, all to help Siri do a better job.

No one knows how long this data is kept by Apple or who has access to it, Apple doesn't say either, its user agreement only states "By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple's and its subsidiaries' and agents' transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and other Apple products and services."

Siri's original lead developer Edward Wrenbeck confirms that privacy was always a big concern and the fact that Siri could provide information on your location alone could be enough to violate a non-disclosure agreement. Of course this in no different to many other apps currently available or in fact,  the internet in general.

Do you think IBM is right to be concerned over who can gain access to this information and do you have privacy concerns of your own while using Siri?

Source: Wired


UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

  • They should also ban Google!!!
  • Any EU company using the iPhone 4S MUST disable Siri and iCloud otherwise they risk breaking EU law depending on what kind of business they're in.
  • really what law
  • Apple is a company of magic pure magic
  • quick! where did i leave my tin hat.
    yes they collect and store it to help siri learn, but it'll be totally anonymized anyway.
    If ibm are worried maybe they should just not ask siri when their secret project is coming out...
  • Somebody please explain to me how this is any different from any other search engine in regards to what data is kept for analyzation and service improvement. This seems ridiculous.
  • It's not much different, except, with Siri, Apple is getting a free pass in the minds of most users.
    By now, most users expect that Google (and Bing, and Yahoo) are mining their data when they search, and, even if only in limited, anonymized ways, sharing it with third parties.
    Most users do not realize that Apple is doing the same thing with Siri -- collecting user data and sharing with third parties. In some ways, Siri collects potentially more intrusive information, simply because users are granting it contextual information about their lives and relationships.
    It is not necessarily any more evil for Apple to do this than for Google, but people simply need to know that Apple is doing this, so they can have all the information to modify their behavior, if it makes them uncomfortable.
  • This was a stupid decision, because also Samsung galaxy s3 is sending voice commands to Google ! It is just a marketing thing to show that IBM is against Apple. But in my opinion , this is stupid ! Shame on IBM, we always knew that IBM are professionals.
  • Last I checked, IBM wasn't operating any cellular networks, so turn WiFi off and you aren't "operating on any of IBM's Networks" and therefore, your iPhone 4S is operating on your cellular network. Some stupid MBA came up with this crap policy that is easily gotten around. Guess what? You can still text, make phone calls, use the web, and search with Google or Bing and just as vulnerable, so this policy does absolutely nothing to insure any privacy or security. #Idiots at IBM are clueless.
  • I believe this article misses a key aspect of the IBM policy. My understanding is that Siri can be used within IBM, but the feature of using Siri without unlocking the phone must be disabled. Otherwise, if they lost their phone, someone would be able to ask Siri many questions that could display personal and sensitive information (calendar entries, email, contacts) without having to type in a password.
  • So are you saying that IBM requires all smartphones to be password protected? Otherwise they can get same information without SIRI?
  • That makes much more sense...Anyone using an iPhone 4s should disable that, my opinion.
    Laslo - You misunderstand...with Siri, there is a setting to let you use it from the lock screen...without paswword, even when locked. So, it is much more than what you say.
  • Haters gone Hate
  • I brought down IBM last night when I asked Siri to give me a 25 minute timer when I was cooking chicken.
  • chill people. this is probably only for BYOD and if you wanted to connect to ibm's email and outlook calendar with your iphone you must have that disabled. it's probably automatically done to your phone by apps like airwatch that a lot of companies that have BYOD policy use.
    i don't think a random employee with a personal device with no company data on there would have their iphone taken away in a hallway if someone caught them using Siri.
  • It's really a cool and helpful piece of information. I am happy that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.
  • Apple: >>> "hmmm, so the guys at IBM just set a timer for 36mins. Also, one of them has reminded himself to get milk on the way home"
  • Awesome...
  • Maybe IBM should turn Watson into a personal assistant and show Apple how to do it...
  • Siri sucks anyway. I don't know why anyone would want to use it when it only works 50% of the time
  • I don't see the point. I'm not downloading company e-mail to my device or synching a company calendar with it. It's my device. I can do whatever the heck I want with it, as it wasn't deployed to me from the company.
  • This article is not telling the whole story. I work at IBM and use my own iPhone. For security reasons the phones must be protected with a passcode. The only restriction to Siri usage is the one that specifies "Do not allow access to Siri when locked with a passcode." i.e. you must authenticate with your passcode before Siri can be used. This is to prevent someone who steals/finds your missing phone from using Siri to do things like "Read my emails" and potentially access company confidential information. But I guess this reasonable restriction wouldn't make for nearly as dramatic a soundbite as "IBM bans Siri!"
  • To be fair, it's not imore's fault. Wired published the misinformation. Shame on them.
  • Actually, if the Wired and Verge articles are correct, it is much different than Google, because the articles maintain the iPhone also transmits what you say when you use Siri for dictation. If this is in fact the case, then IBM has every right to be concerned -- I would not want my employees dictating business emails and have their contents being stored offsite and out of my control.
  • That's exactly what I think IBM's concern is, that and if you dictate names from your contacts, or schedule something I think everything you dictate will be stored by apple.
    And actually Siri is not like big deal for everyone business day, and also IBM is in its right to do what they consider proper to keep security. I know there are some companies that do not even allow cellphones with camera so I think that includes no Siri for them
  • If I am IBM management and I learn that my employees on the executive, strategic or operative levels are dictating memos with Company confidential information inside them using Siri, I would be very very concerned as to where that data goes and who has access to it outside of IBM!
  • Where do I find the Ipod Photo Cache? It's not in my Pictures folder.