While Zooey Deschanel's adorkable quest for rainy-day tomato soup and Samuel L. Jackson's reminder to put the gazpacho on ice might lead you to believe that summoning Siri is just a fancy flight of epicurean whimsy, consider this: What happens to all those verbal requests?

Think again if you believe they just evaporate into the ether. Actually, Apple processes and stores the voice requests and commands on a remote server were they remain. For how long, you ask? Apple won't say.


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No big whup if you're just asking Siri to find organic mushrooms for your risotto, but what if your tête-à-tête with Siri was a little more sensitive? Say, for example, you were using Siri to organize a subversive political protest or perhaps you work for Apple's rival company. Now, all of a sudden, Siri's secret stash doesn't sound so footloose and fancy-free.

Last month Technology Review reported that IBM asked its employees to give Siri the cold shoulder in fear of sensitive company information being leaked to Apple.

"We found a tremendous lack of awareness as to what constitutes a risk," Jeanette Horan, IBM's chief information officer, told Technology Review. "We're trying to make people aware."

However, Apple said there's no reason for concern.

"This data is only used for Siri's operation and to help Siri improve its understanding and recognition," said Apple spokeswoman, Trudy Muller.

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Benevolent intentions aside, ensuring the protection and privacy of voiceprints will likely increase as more smartphones continue to be equipped with voice recognition applications.

James Glass, a senior research scientist at MIT, says that the best way to keep voiceprints anonymous would be to disconnect voice recordings from a user's phone number.

"It would mean that it would be harder for systems to personalize to your voice and queries, but some people might prefer that option if it gave them more privacy," he said. "This is the position I would advocate for, as it is similar to how some apps ask permission to use your location right now."

As for my stance on Siri, I'm taking a hands-off approach. After all, a wise man once said, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." Seems like I'm not the only one who thinks so.

via Technology Review

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