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No, your iPhone isn’t listening to all your secrets, despite what your dad thinks

Siri isn't spying on you

No, your iPhone isn’t listening to all your secrets, despite what your dad thinks
09 August 2018

Your dad’s angry, just like he was over the Millennium Bug, chocolate bars getting smaller, and every single example of modern pop music.

This time, though, his complaint isn’t about “all that nonsense dancing and rapping,” it’s about iPhones. Specifically how “they’re all spying on us, trust me”.

He’s heard about Siri, put on his tinfoil hat, and decided your phone is always listening to your private conversations - something that has probably crossed the minds of everyone when an advert for something you’ve just been talking about appears to pop up on your feed.

However, like his opinions about music, he’s plain wrong. He’s got a point about the chocolate, mind you.

As CNN reports, Apple director of federal government affairs Timothy Powderly has cleared up any confusion on what your phone can and can’t hear.

“iPhone doesn’t listen to consumers except to recognize the clear, unambiguous audio trigger ‘Hey Siri,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“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 advertisers.”

The announcement comes after a couple in America had a private conversation of theirs sent to a colleague after it was seemingly picked up by their Amazon Echo.

On that occasion, it’s thought that the device responded to one of them saying something that sounded like ‘Alexa’. Similarly, if you want to be on the safe side you might want to avoid going around loudly saying words that sound like ‘Siri’ if you have an iPhone.

That means no chats about footballers signing from clubs in Serie A, no shouting recipes for pan-seared tuna, and absolutely no impressions of Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Facebook, which has also been accused of listening to user conversations in the past, has previously said it does not capture data from a microphone or camera without permission - although that is something that we unthinkingly give out all the time, so who knows what it’s really collecting from you.

However, security expert Serge Egelman, director of security and privacy research at Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute, told CNN that, rather than things listening in on you, it’s actually far more likely that you’ve given away plenty of other clues as to your interests already via your other online activity.

“It’s categorically untrue that this is happening,” he said. "[Rather], this is really sophisticated machine learning at work. Algorithms are being used to target ads based on your perceived interests.”

Do you believe them? If not, probably best to whisper it.

(Images: Pixabay)