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Apple hits pause on Siri review process that had workers listen to recordings

The iPhone maker says it's committed to protecting user privacy.

Siri signal on an iPhone screen
Apple says people will be able to opt out of Siri grading in the future.
Oscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple is suspending its Siri grading process globally while it conducts a review. The move comes after a report last week in  The Guardian said a team of contractors around the world listens to a random, small subset of the recordings Siri hears after people push its activation button or say "Hey Siri," to check the voice assistant's accuracy and response. Apple also said it plans to give users the option to opt out of Siri grading in the future. 

"We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy," said an Apple spokesperson 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."

Apple's decision to suspend the program was reported earlier by TechCrunch.

The iPhone maker's attempts to improve Siri aren't much different from actions at Amazon and Google, which similarly ask reviewers to analyze some recordings made with their respective voice assistants. Each of the companies says it's a key way to help improve their systems. 

The Siri recordings sometimes include private conversations such as discussions with doctors and sexual encounters, according to The Guardian. The recordings don't have identifiable information, Apple told the paper, and they're analyzed in secure facilities.

Apple has positioned its services and devices as bastions of privacy at a time when tech companies, including Facebook and Google, are under increased scrutiny for how they collect and distribute people's data. The company keeps Siri recordings for two years, though certain markers are removed from the file after six months. 

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