Serious iPhone security flaws and reports of Siri “leaking” sensitive conversations are again plaguing Apple’s bid to become a leader in tech privacy.
It was revealed last week that voice assistant Siri has not only been listening and cataloguing users’ highly confidential conversations – they’re being heard by contractors who carry out quality control work for Apple.
Contractors “regularly” overheard everything from drug deals, to details of medical conditions – and even people having sex – the report from the US in The Guardian detailed.
“These recordings are accompanied by user data showing location, contact details, and app data,” a whistleblower revealed.
It’s paired with news this week that Google security researchers revealed they had discovered six critical security vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS 12.4 iPhone operating system.
It is believed the flaws could have fetched as much as $5 million on the black market.
While Google alerted Apple, and the company released a security update to patch five of the flaws on July 22, the researchers have held back on releasing the details of one vulnerability that has yet to be fully patched.
iPhone users have been urged to update their phones with the latest security patches as soon as they become available.
As tech’s other big players Google, Amazon, and Facebook have been embarrassed by revelations of privacy breaches and data misuse, Apple has sought to position itself as the leading brand for the privacy-conscious consumer.
Apple – the world’s most valuable company – is currently running a global advertising campaign touting its commitment to privacy.
“At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right,” the company’s website says.
“Every Apple product is designed from the ground up to protect [users’ personal] information. And to empower you to choose what you share and with whom.”
Tech’s troubled history with privacy
The world’s big four tech companies have all faced privacy headaches, none moreso than Facebook.
A decade ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg drew condemnation when he declared that privacy was no longer a “social norm”.
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
“That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”
In 2019, seeking to rebuild Facebook’s reputation after a slew of scandals, Mr Zuckerberg declared “the future is private”.
Conceding that Facebook’s new commitment to privacy marked a “major shift” in the company’s direction, Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged the social media behemoth had much work to do in order to rebuild trust within the global community.
“I know that we don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly,” he said.
Privacy and security concerns continue to deter some people from installing voice assistant technology in their homes.
Last year, an Amazon Echo user in the US had snippets of her conversation recorded and shared to a contact in her phone, despite Amazon initially denying such privacy breaches were possible.
A number of Amazon Alexa users also reported hearing the device creepily ‘laugh’ unprompted in their homes.
“We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon said in a statement at the time, later claiming the device was mistakenly responding to what it perceived to be a command to laugh.