Since the introduction of voice-controlled “smart assistants” like Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana being built into almost every smart device, many users have been curious about whether or not their devices were secretly listening to or recording conversations.
These virtual assistants allow users to quickly set reminders and check the weather just by using their voice, but how much personal information is really being monitored by your smart device?
This was the question posed by top Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in letters written to Apple Inc. and Google requesting more information on their respective privacy policies and user data management systems.
In the letters sent to the tech giants, the lawmakers said the committee would be “reviewing the business practices that may impact the privacy expectations of Americans.”
According to reports from CNET, Apple has since responded, shutting down all claims that its devices are misusing confidential user information.
CNET published a letter written by Apple’s director of federal government affairs Timothy Powderly, in which the company says,
“We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely design our products and services to minimize our collection of customer data. When we do collect data, we’re transparent about it and work to disassociate it from the user.”
Powderly says the iPhone does not listen to its users unless triggered by a specific command, in this case, “Hey Siri.”
In the original letter sent out by lawmakers, specific mention was made regarding reports that apps installed via third-party sources could potentially gain access to the data devices collect while listening for their “trigger words.”
“We have worked to design iOS and Apple apps so that the processing of information collected the microphone stays on the device where possible and the information is never shared with Apple or others unless the user takes action to do so,” Powderly said.
The letter also points out that Apple’s Siri works in a different way than other similar voice-command assistants.
Finally, the company reminded lawmakers that it gives users total control over their privacy and location settings. Users have the ability to grant apps access to their information upon installation.