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?
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