Apple made it clear that iPhones are not listening in on users. In a letter to Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, the Cupertino-company explicitly stated that iPhones do not record audio while listening for the “Hey Siri” wakeup command. Additionally, Apple said Siri does not share spoken words, and that third-party apps need to get explicit approval from users for microphone access. These apps need to also display “a clear signal” when they are listening, after all the user approvals have been granted.
The letter comes in response to an inquiry from Representatives Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta. The five have written Tim Cook and Larry Page (Apple, and Alphabet CEOs, respectively) a letter asking for clarification regarding privacy concerns. More specifically, they were interested in whether reports are true concerning the ability for smartphones to “collect ‘non-triggered’ audio data from users’ conversations near a smartphone in order to hear a ‘trigger’ phrase, such as ‘Okay Google’ or ‘Hey Siri’”.
While Alphabet didn’t say whether it answered the original letter, and Apple didn’t comment beyond the response, a spokeswoman for the Republican majority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee told Reuters that “both companies have been cooperative thus far. The Committee looks forward to reviewing and analyzing the responses as we consider next steps.”
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