Apple will no longer keep Siri audio recordings by default, makes feature opt-in

If users opt in, only Apple employees will be able to listen to Siri recordings. No more contractors.

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Image: Oscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple announced today changes to the way Siri handles audio recordings of voice commands, and who gets to listen and review these interactions.

In a press release today, the company said it was making this feature opt-in for all users, on all devices. Apple plans to roll out software updates later this fall and ask users for their specific consent to make audio recordings of Siri commands and upload these files to its servers.

Up until recently, this was standard Siri behavior. When a user would issue a voice command, Siri would record the interaction as an audio file and upload it to an Apple server where contractors would review the recordings as part of a Siri quality evaluation process named "call grading."

But Apple was forced to put a stop to call grading earlier this month, after The Guardian reported that Apple contractors were regularly hearing more than they should, such as recordings of intimate moments, confidential medical information, or even drug deals.

The report garnered a lot of media and user attention because the practice was not known to most Apple users, being hidden under layers of privacy policies and terms of use.

"We know that customers have been concerned by recent reports of people listening to audio Siri recordings as part of our Siri quality evaluation process," Apple said today.

"We heard their concerns, immediately suspended human grading of Siri requests and began a thorough review of our practices and policies. We've decided to make some changes to Siri as a result."

Only Apple employees will listen to Siri recordings

Besides making the feature opt-in in a future software update, Apple also announced it was making Siri audio recording reviews an internal process only.

Starting next fall -- when Apple said it would resume call grading -- only Apple employees will be allowed to review Siri recordings.

Apple also said they plan to delete "any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri," and that going forward, for users who don't opt-in, the company would use computer-generated transcripts to help improve Siri.

More details about Apple's improved Siri call grading process are available in this Apple support page.