Siri Remembers Your Requests For Two Years
April 19, 2013

Siri Remembers Your Requests For Two Years

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Anything transmitted across the Internet will inevitably be stored somewhere. Emails, text messages, Facebook statuses — everything which comprises our daily digital life can probably be found again with enough looking. Today Apple announced that even all those silly questions we´ve been asking Siri are stored away on their servers. Fortunately for some of us, Siri doesn´t have great long-term memory and forgets these requests after two years.

Wired ran a story on Thursday explaining Siri does hold on to this data, but that no one knew for how long. Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller got in contact with Wired to set the record straight, pleasing not only Wired, but privacy advocates like the ACLU who were concerned with the company storing these requests.

According to Wired´s story, Muller said Apple works hard to encrypt all the data and ensure their customers´ privacy. If the encryption used to store Siri requests is anywhere near as strong as the encryption Apple uses for iMessage, it´s likely our secrets are safe with the intelligent personal assistant.

Muller explained Siri´s workflow like this:

When a user speaks to Siri, their voice is sent to Apple-owned data farms to be analyzed. Here Apple stores and analyzes the requests, but only to improve Siri´s listening abilities. Apple then assigns these requests with a randomly generated number and attaches them with another randomly generated user number. This means Siri´s servers do not associate a request with a specific AppleID, they can only see this randomly generated number.

After six months, the servers remove the user number from the audio clip and delete it. The sound clips remain for another 18 months in the name of bettering Siri.

“Apple may keep anonymized Siri data for up to two years,” said Muller.

“If a user turns Siri off, both identifiers are deleted immediately along with any associated data.”

Turning off Siri also removes any stored data on the device itself. Though this is helpful to anyone looking to wipe their device, it may not be helpful for someone who has spent months teaching Siri about their family, friends and schedules.

Nicole Orzer is an ACLU lawyer and though she´s happy Apple has decided to open up about their policies, she thinks the company can take it one step further.

For instance, as it stands users can only view Siri´s privacy policy within the settings panel on a Siri-enabled iPad or iPhone. Orzer told Wired she´d like to see Apple make this information available on their website or in the Siri FAQ list.

“There is no good reason for Apple to not include information about privacy practices on their Siri FAQ page,” said Orzer, speaking to Wired.

That Siri has to transmit user requests to Apple´s servers has been a point of contention for corporations and privacy advocates before.

Last May, IBM announced they would be banning the use of Siri on campus. Employees are able to bring their own devices for work, but the IBM IT department disables Siri first, as well as Apple´s iMessage, and even file-sharing service Dropbox.

The IT department at IBM found many of their employees were “blissfully unaware” about the potential security risks of using these services.