of numerous reports that Amazon's Alexa
speakers were "accidentally"
listening in, and in some cases recording the conversations
of their owners, on Tuesday Apple responded to US lawmakers
whether its iPhones invade users' privacy and listen in on
conversation without their consent: Apple's response: a resounding
"no", and added that it does not allow third-party apps to do so
either, after lawmakers asked the company if its devices were
invading users’ privacy.
Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta wrote
to Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook and Alphabet chief executive
Larry Page in July, 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.’"
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 that Siri does
not share spoken words. Apple also vowed that it requires users to
explicitly approve microphone access and that apps must display a
clear signal that they are listening, which of course .
believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely
design our products and services to minimize our collection of
customer data," Apple executive Timothy Powderly wrote in the
leter to Walden. "The
customer is not our product, and our business model does not
depend on collecting vast amounts of personally identifiable
information to enrich targeted profiles marketed to
is great for Apple, because virtually every other social media's
business model depends on precisely that.
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, Reuters
reported. Apple declined to comment beyond its letter, which
was seen by Reuters.
also 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, an
obligation which we are "confident" they all strictly follow.
maybe not, because as even Apple admitted, it's really up to the
developer to be honest with the user.
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,”
other words, sellers of apps for the Iphone, a business that has
generated $100 billion in revenue for developers over the past
decade, and tens of billions for Apple, can do anything they want.
And while Apple affirmed that it removed apps from the App Store
over privacy violations, it
declined to say whether it ever banned any developers.
for some reason lawmakers only focused on smartphones, even though
they should widen their scope to encompass smart speakers. After
all, there’s one huge elephant in the room that’s missing in here.
That’s Amazon, which doesn’t make any smartphones of its own, but
whose Alexa assistant is the best-sold voice assistant for home.
And we all remember how, only a few months ago, some Echo speaker
users discovered their devices recorded a piece of their
conversation and then sent that audio file to a contact. All that
happened without the explicit consent of the users.
as a reminder, here is the shocked response from one Amazon Echo
user who found
that her conversations were anything but