Apple ends Siri 'grading,' says contractors won't listen to voice recordings anymore

"Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading,” the company said.
Image: A customer tries the Siri voice assistant function on an iPhone 5.
A customer tries the Siri voice assistant function on an iPhone 5.Ian Waldie / Bloomberg/Getty Images

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By Cyrus Farivar

Almost a week after news broke that contractors working for Apple had access to intimate and personal Siri recordings — a practice of quality control known as “grading” — the company said late Thursday that it would halt the practice.

“We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy,” Apple said in a statement. “While we conduct a thorough review, we are suspending Siri grading globally. Additionally, as part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.”

News of the Thursday statement was first reported by TechCrunch.

As The Guardian initially reported July 26, such Siri audio clips included sounds of people having sex, discussing medical information and other intimate details.

Apple has maintained that only a tiny fraction — less than 1 percent — of Siri voice recordings are actually heard by human workers, and each recording is usually only a few seconds long.

The “grading” procedure is common among other tech firms, including Google and Amazon, that have similar voice assistants.

Last month, VRT, a Belgian public broadcaster, reported that lengthy Flemish-language clips, sometimes containing personal details, were shared with contractors.