Until now, none of the three major tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple have been transparent in explaining to users who listens to their conversations.
For many privacy advocates, the day these companies are subdued in their attempts to learn everything about their users, could be around the corner.
For starters, Apple says it has suspended the program for listening to user conversations which operates via Siri.
The Cupertino company stated that it will also review the process to determine if the AI assistant listens to the queries correctly or if it is activated by mistake and will allow users to choose whether or not to participate in this program.
“We are committed to providing a great experience with Siri while protecting user privacy. While we carry out a comprehensive review, we have suspended Siri’s global rating program. In addition, as part of a future software update, users may choose to participate in this program,” said Apple in a statement.
Apple, which bears the right to privacy of its customers, took about three months to recognize that it had hired transcriptionists to listen to users’ requests to Siri.
The admission was made a few days ago when the company was questioned about its employees or contractors’ mission to listen to private conversations of users in several languages, including French and German.
“These audios are not related at any time with users and are heard and analyzed to improve what the machine understands, to understand different accents and ways of speaking,” said Apple.
Listening to private recordings is carried out through a subcontracted company. The reviewers are responsible for analyzing private conversations and requests made to the virtual assistant on Apple devices.
They are, as they relate, recordings of all kinds: from “normal searches or requests to Siri to many barbarities.”
Although tech giants insist that the feature is only activated when they the user issues command, the listening is sometimes activated by mistake.
“I’ve come to listen to people having sex. Sometimes, the recording begins by accident and they don’t realize it,” former employees recalled.
Big Tech Spying
Apple’s case is no exception. Amazon and Google also have employees who listen to random conversations every day with the supposed goal of improving the system.
And it has also been difficult for them to admit it. Both companies have only recognized performing these practices once the information is published.
After a leak of a thousand recordings in early July, Google sais it would stop these programs and admitted that “language experts” hired by the firm listen to approximately 0.2% of the conversations that users have with their virtual assistant.
Meanwhile, neither Samsung nor Microsoft have yet explained if they do that too.
Several privacy experts criticize the lack of transparency and the potential risk that exists that companies could accurately profile each user.
What is more dangerous than a person from time to time connecting to your assistant and writing the conversation or having an artificial intelligence system that collects everything you say?
The big problem is that many of those who use virtual assistants do not know that they are being recorded because they do not read the privacy policies.
We must be aware that, either through an ‘algorithm’ or a person, companies are having access to these conversations.
Machines and people are listening to what we do and say at all times. The same is done with free email services, with Facebook, which also has a large number of people to decide if the platform will finally publish the photograph that we ourselves have uploaded.
Why hold the cheers despite the fact that big tech giants promise they have suspended spying programs? Because we really do not know if they have done that or not. Also, because there surely are numerous other programs they use to track what users say and do.
The revelation that they use AI or contractors to spy on users is just the tip of a fat ass iceberg.