Apple stores Siri user data for up to 2 years

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has revealed that its servers store iOS user search queries, messages and commands leveraging its Siri voice assistant technology for up to two years.

Siri, introduced with Apple's iPhone 4S in late 2011, applies search algorithms to translate verbal commands and perform device tasks. "If you turn off Siri, Apple will delete your User Data, as well as your recent voice input data," Apple's privacy statement reads. "Older voice input data that has been disassociated from you may be retained for a period of time to generally improve Siri and other Apple products and services."

Earlier this week, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Nicole Ozer called on Apple to clarify the policy. "It's not clear what 'disassociated' means. It's not clear what 'period of time' means. It's not clear what using it to 'generally improve Siri and other Apple products and services' means," Ozer told Wired. "The only thing that's clear is we really don't know what may be happening to the personal information we have told Siri, even after we turn Siri off."

Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller responded Thursday afternoon to Ozer's request, telling Wired the computing giant "may keep anonymized Siri data for up to two years. If a user turns Siri off, both identifiers are deleted immediately along with any associated data."

Muller explained that all Siri interactions are transmitted to Apple's data farm for analysis; each user is represented by a random number separate from his Apple user ID or email address, and all Siri files are associated with that number. Once a Siri recording is six months old, Apple "disassociates" the user number from the clip, deleting the user number from the voice file, but may still keep the disassociated files for up to 18 additional months for testing and product improvement purposes.

Muller added that Apple collects Siri data solely to improve the technology, taking steps to guarantee that all information is anonymous. "Our customers' privacy is very important to us," she said.

Ozer argued that Apple should link the Siri policy to its Siri FAQ webpage, noting that the policy is currently available exclusively within the Siri settings on each iOS device. "There is no good reason for Apple to not include information about privacy practices on their Siri FAQ page," Ozer said. She also urged consumers to use caution when accessing Siri, noting that "what you say to Siri could reveal sensitive things about you, your family, or business. Siri works for Apple, so make a note to yourself to really think before you speak."

For more:
- read this Wired article

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