Apple pressed on legality of eavesdropping

Apple pressed on legality of eavesdropping

The country’s data protection watchdog is in talks with Apple to establish how letting contractors here listen to Siri recordings was complaint with the tech giant’s GDPR obligations.

The Data Protection Commission has sought further details from Apple after it was revealed by the Irish Examiner that employees at a third-party company in Cork were listening to recordings collected from Siri.

Companies found to be in serious breach of GDPR obligations may be liable to face penalties of up to €20m, or 4% of its annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

As first reported by this paper, employees on fixed-term contracts with Cork-based company Globetech, a third party providing services to Apple, were expected to listen to more than 1,000 Siri recordings each shift. The anonymous recordings were then transcribed and graded by staff based on a number of different factors.

However, contractors carrying out this work would occasionally hear confidential information such as couples having sex or doctors talking with patients, as Siri can be activated accidentally, according to former workers whose contracts were terminated last week.

“The Data Protection Commission (DPC) is engaging with Apple to establish further details on the processing of personal data in the context of the manual transcription of audio recordings collected by their digital assistants and to establish how they believe that such processing of data is compliant with their GDPR obligations,” said a spokesperson for the commission.

Further to which, we will be making our assessments and conclusions.

This week, Apple apologised to its users, acknowledging concerns over people listening to Siri recordings, and announced changes to the system moving forward.

By default, the company will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions and Apple users will be able to opt-in if they would like their recordings graded by Apple employees.

This statement issued by Apple will be taken into account during the “engagement” between the company and the Data Protection Commission, added a spokesperson for the commission.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s communications spokesman, Timmy Dooley, has requested that Apple representatives appear before the Oireachtas Communications Committee shortly.

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