Apple apologizes for listening to Siri talk, sets new rules

In this file photo taken on June 5, 2017, a prototype of Apple's new HomePod is displayed during the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California. (AFP)
Updated 29 August 2019

Apple apologizes for listening to Siri talk, sets new rules

  • Google and Amazon have also announced changes to their programs in response to privacy concerns

WASHINGTON: Apple on Wednesday apologized for its digital assistant Siri sharing some of what it heard with quality control workers as it unveiled new rules for handling data from conversations.
Under the changes, Apple will allow its employees to review conversations only from customers who opt into the “Siri grading” program to improve the voice recognition technology. Apple will also delete by default any recordings used for the program.
“We realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize,” Apple said in a post.
“We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri” as a result of concerns expressed about the grading program, the company added. “Our goal with Siri, the pioneering intelligent assistant, is to provide the best experience for our customers while vigilantly protecting their privacy.”
Computer-generated transcripts will still be used to hone the ability of the software to understand what people say and mean, the company said.
Apple suspended the program after news broke that contractors were hearing confidential medical information, criminal dealings and even sexual encounters.
The California tech giant was among several firms scrutinized on using contractors to “listen” to conversations with digital assistants to improve the artificial intelligence software.
If customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of Siri interactions and they will “work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger” of the voice-commanded digital assistant, according to the company.
“We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place,” Apple said.
Google and Amazon have also announced changes to their programs in response to privacy concerns.


Twitter sets out plans for banning political ads

Updated 15 November 2019

Twitter sets out plans for banning political ads

  • Rival Facebook Inc, saying it did not want to stifle political speech, has steadfastly refused calls from some politicians and others to follow Twitter’s lead
  • Twitter said it will use a combination of automated technology and human teams to enforce the new ad policies

WASHINGTON: Twitter Inc. on Friday laid out its plan for banning political ads just as campaigns for the 2020 US presidential election heat up, and for banning ads that advocate for a certain outcome on social and political causes.
Twitter said last month that it would ban political advertising, as social media companies have faced growing calls to stop accepting ads that spread false information and could sway elections.
Twitter said it will define political content under its policy as anything that references “a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.”
“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said in announcing the ban.
Rival Facebook Inc, saying it did not want to stifle political speech, has steadfastly refused calls from some politicians and others to follow Twitter’s lead, and said it would not vet political ads for misleading claims on its site.
The ban, which is expected to take effect on Nov. 22 and includes ads from political candidates, political parties or government officials themselves, was initially derided by US President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
The popular social media platform will allow companies and advocacy groups to run ads that promote awareness and discussion about social causes, such as environmental protection. But they will not be allowed to push for a certain political or legislative change on the issue, especially if they are advocating for something that benefits their business, Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety, said in a conference call on Friday.
Under the new policy for example, Sierra Club or gun rights advocates could still promote their causes, but they would not be able to single out politicians they support or target those they would like to see defeated in elections, or lobby for political outcomes.
Advertisers who wish to run ads that promote awareness about a cause will be able to target users at the state level or higher, but not by their zip-code. And those advertisers will not be able to target people based on their political leanings, Twitter said.
Twitter said it will use a combination of automated technology and human teams to enforce the new ad policies.
It said it sought to make the new rules as clear as possible. But other major tech companies, including Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google, have had widely publicized struggles to moderate the vast amount of content uploaded to their sites.
News publishers that meet certain criteria will continue to be able to run ads on Twitter that reference political content, but they cannot advocate for or against a political topic.