Apple tells lawmakers iPhones are not listening in on…

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Oregon lawmakers wrote to Apple and Alphabet asking whether devices record or listen to users. Apple insists the only way to trigger voice technology is to say


Apple has been forced to assure users that iPhones do not listen to phone conversations.       

The company insists the only way to activate voice recognition is by saying ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Okay Google’, to ‘trigger’ the devices. 

It came in response to a letter from lawmakers in Oregon, who demanded clarification on whether smart speakers listened to or recorded users.  

On Tuesday, Apple Inc hit back, insisting – in a thinly-veiled dig at Facebook’s privacy scandal – that their business model’does not depend on collecting vast amounts of personally identifiable information to enrich targeted profiles marketed to advertisers.’ 

Oregon lawmakers wrote to Apple and Alphabet asking whether devices record or listen to users. Apple insists the only way to trigger voice technology is to say 'hey Siri'. File photo

Oregon lawmakers wrote to Apple and Alphabet asking whether devices record or listen to users. Apple insists the only way to trigger voice technology is to say ‘hey Siri’. File photo

Fears over eavesdropping have intensified in recent years, as more and more people own devices with voice technology – and devices and personalized advertising get smarter. 

It has become something of a standard joke that Instagram ads seem to pop up on a user’s feed after they merely thought about a similar thing.  

However, Apple insists iPhones should not be feared.  

The firm told US lawmakers on Tuesday that its iPhones do not listen to users without their consent and do not allow third-party apps to do so either, after lawmakers asked the company if its devices were invading users’ privacy.

Last month, representatives Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta wrote to Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook citing concerns about reports that smartphones could ‘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’.

They also wrote to Alphabet Inc chief executive Larry Page at the same time.

In a letter to Walden, an Oregon Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Apple said iPhones do not record audio while listening for Siri wakeup commands and Siri does not share spoken words. 

Apple said it requires users to explicitly approve microphone access and that apps must display a clear signal that they are listening.

The letters, in which lawmakers cited reports suggesting third-party applications had access to and used ‘non-triggered’ data without users’ knowledge, followed congressional hearings in April into Facebook Inc’s privacy practices, which included testimony by its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Alphabet did not respond to questions about whether it had replied to lawmakers. Apple declined to comment beyond its letter, which was seen by Reuters.

Fears over eavesdropping have intensified in recent years, as more and more people own devices with voice technology - and devices and personalized advertising get smarter. File photo

Fears over eavesdropping have intensified in recent years, as more and more people own devices with voice technology - and devices and personalized advertising get smarter. File photo

Fears over eavesdropping have intensified in recent years, as more and more people own devices with voice technology – and devices and personalized advertising get smarter. File photo

A spokeswoman for the Republican majority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said ‘both companies have been cooperative thus far. The Committee looks forward to reviewing and analyzing the responses as we consider next steps.’

Apple wrote that it had removed apps from its App Store over privacy violations but declined to say whether it had ever banned a developer. It also said it was up to developers to notify users when an app was removed for privacy reasons.

‘Apple does not and cannot monitor what developers do with the customer data they have collected, or prevent the onward transfer of that data, nor do we have the ability to ensure a developer’s compliance with their own privacy policies or local law,’ Apple wrote.

The iPhone maker’s App Store has generated $100 billion in revenue for developers over the past decade. Apple told lawmakers in its letter that it rejected about 36,000 apps from among the 100,000 submitted each week for violations of its guidelines.





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