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Siri + Apple know a lot about you, who cares about privacy?

SiriLast week I posted my perspective on Siri's initial privacy policy.  Siri's initial policy which was somewhat buried in Apple's general iPhone 4S policy.  Over the past week I have received hundreds of hits from people searching Google for "Siri Privacy".  User privacy in Siri was clearly an issue that concerned a number of users.  And Apple failed to meet these user needs by not providing sufficient upfront transparency on what user data they were collecting and why.

A few days ago, Apple posted an updated and fairly detailed policy.  You can read it here.  I have also included this policy in the bottom of this post for your convenience.  Given the tight turnaround, I have to believe that Apple had this policy written in advance and simply failed to publish it in a timely manner.  I wouldn't consider this a major failure, but rather a slight miss that was quickly corrected.

What does Siri's cloud services (aka Apple) know about it's users?  

    And why do they need this?

Siri uses the cloud to process your contacts, relationships, messaging accounts (such as email), and your media (such as songs and playlists).  By sending all of this data to Apple, Apple/Siri can better understand your commands to Siri.  I'm not an engineer, but it would be far better for the user experience if more of this could be done using local computing power, as this would make Siri available to users without a web connection.  However, it is very possible that the database program behind Siri's voice recognition may be too large to store locally.  This could very well be a technical limitation.

Apple and Siri also use your voice recordings to improve their service in aggregate.  By better understanding how users use their system, how well their system performs and where it falls short, Apple can improve the service.  Yes, this means that someone somewhere may be listening to your Siri voice inputs.  However, this data is not linked to your Apple accounts so it is unlikely that anyone will associate this data with your personal life.

Location data is also turned on by default.  You locations will be sent to Apple.  Many apps have this turned on in order to gather better analytics.  However in Siri's case, your location data also provides you with better services.  For example, if you set a geofence to remember to call your wife when you leave work, Siri will need your location in order to provide this service.  The same goes for asking Siri about restaurants, or about the weather.  As with all location-collecting apps, the user has the ability to turn off location data sharing.

Siri Maintains Your Privacy

Here's the bottom line.  Apple will have a lot of data about how users use the service.  They will also know a lot about you, your media, your relationships etc.  This data won't be passed on to a third party, and it will all be fairly anonymous.  If you don't want to use this free service, turn it off.  But if you're already using many popular internet services, you are already freely sharing this information.  There is nothing new to be alarmed about.

All smart services will require insight into your personal life, networks and behaviors in order to be "smart" about your needs.  It's now up to you, the user, to be smart about how you use them.

Siri's User Privacy Policy

 (updated 10/16/2011)


Siri helps you get things done just by asking. You can make a phone call, send a message, check the weather, or even dictate text. To better understand your request, your device will record and send to Apple the things you say and dictate, as well as other information from your device. This information is sent only with your consent.

Products Affected

iPhone 4S

What data is collected and how is it used

As part of providing the Siri service, Apple collects two general types of data to enable Siri to become better at recognizing what you say and how you say things: User Data and Voice Input Data.

User Data provides context for your request and helps Siri understand what you are saying. User Data collected may include information such as:

  • The names of your address book contacts, their nicknames, and their relationship with you (for example, “my dad”, or “work”)
  • Your first name and nickname
  • Labels you assign to your email accounts (for example, “My Home Email”)
  • Names of songs and playlists in your collection

User Data sent to Apple enables Siri to help you when you say things like "Call Dad" or "How do I get to work from here?"

Voice Input Data is used by Apple to process your request, to help Siri better recognize what you say and may be used generally to improve the overall accuracy and performance of Siri and other Apple products and services. Voice Input Data is associated with your verbal commands and may include:

  • Audio recordings
  • Transcripts of what you said
  • Related diagnostic data, such as hardware and operating system specifications and performance statistics

Data Apple collects while you use Siri is not linked to other data Apple may have from your use of other Apple services. 

The data will not be shared with third parties other than with Apple’s partners who are providing related services to Apple.


If you have Location Services turned on, then the location of your device at the time you make the request will also be sent to Apple to help Siri improve the accuracy of its response to your location-based requests (for example, "what's the weather like here today?"). You may choose to turn off Location Services for Siri. To do so:

  1. Tap Settings > Location Services.
  2. Slide the Siri option to "off." The Siri features will still be available on your device, but location information will no longer be sent with your queries.

Opting out of Siri

You may choose to turn off Siri at any time. To do so:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Siri.
  2. Slide the Siri option to "off."

Siri will no longer be available, and no further User Data or Voice Input Data will be sent to Apple in connection with this service.

If you turn off Siri, Apple will delete User Data and any recent Voice Input Data. Older Voice Input Data that has been disassociated from you may be retained for a period of time to improve Siri and other Apple products and services. Any data Apple retains from your use of Siri will not be associated with you or your device.

You can also enable explicit language filtering or restrict the ability to use Siri altogether under the Restrictions Setting.

To restrict the ability to use Siri:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Restrictions.
  2. Slide the Siri option to "off."

To enable Explicit Language Filtering:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Restrictions.
  2. Slide the Explicit Language option to "off."

Siri Passcode Lock

Siri can allow you to interact with your device without needing to unlock your phone. If you have enabled a passcode on your device and would like to prevent Siri from being used from the lock screen you can:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Passcode Lock
  2. Slide the Siri option to "off"

Privacy policy

Apple will treat information it collects in accordance with Apple's Privacy Policy, which can be found atwww.apple.com/privacy.