In response to an inquiry from the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, Apple said it does not secretly record conversations through its iPhones. And Apple said it does not “listen” to conversations also. Lawmakers were citing reports from third-party developers who claimed they had the ability to collect “non-triggered” audio from “users’ conversations near a smartphone in order to hear a ‘trigger’ phrase,” according to Variety.
“iPhone doesn’t listen to consumers, except to recognize the clear, unambiguous audio trigger ‘Hey Siri,” said Apple in a letter addressed to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who is the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Apple also pointed out that the on-device speech recognizer uses short buffers and does not record or send audio unless a user taps into the voice recognition app. Plus developers are required to obtain consent from users to access the microphone and show a visual indicator when audio information is being collected.
“We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely design our products and services to minimize our collection of customer data,” added Apple’s Director of Federal Government Affairs Timothy Powderly in the letter. “The customer is not our product, and our business model does not depend on vast amounts of personally identifiable information to enrich targeted profiles marketed to advertisers.”
One of the biggest reasons why lawmakers are scrutinizing technology companies is due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that affected Facebook where the personal data of 87 million users were obtained from the user accounts of 270,000 people who signed up for a malicious app called “This Is Your Digital Life.”
To address privacy concerns, Apple also removed a number of apps from the App Store that were violating user privacies.