IBM Bans Siri at Work Due to Privacy Concerns


This is quite bizarre. Wired reports that IBM has banned Siri at work due to privacy concerns.

If you have bought Apple’s new iPhone 4S then you probably know by now that Siri – iPhone 4S’ intelligent personal assistant needs an active internet connection for it to work. That’s because when you ask Siri to do something, the voice data is sent to Apple’s data centers where your request is processed and the results are sent back to your iPhone 4S.

IBM seems to have privacy concerns with the way Siri works. Wired reports:

IBM CIO Jeanette Horan told MIT’s Technology Review this week that her company has banned Siri outright because, according to the magazine, “The company worries that the spoken queries might be stored somewhere.”

It turns out that Horan is right to worry. In fact, Apple’s iPhone Software License Agreement spells this out: “When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text,” Apple says. Siri collects a bunch of other information — names of people from your address book and other unspecified user data, all to help Siri do a better job.

How long does Apple store all of this stuff, and who gets a look at it? Well, the company doesn’t actually say. Again, from the user agreement: “By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and other Apple products and services.”

Edward Wrenbeck, the lead developer of the original Siri iPhone app admits that privacy was one of the big concerns for Siri developers. He says:

“Just having it known that you’re at a certain customer’s location might be in violation of a non-disclosure agreement,”

But he goes on to add:

“I really don’t think it’s something to worry about. People are already doing things on these mobile devices. Maybe Siri makes their life a little bit easier, but it’s not exactly opening up a new avenue that wasn’t there before.”

If IBM is worried that company secrets will be inadvertently leaked to Apple via Siri (seriously?), then it should also ban mobile Safari, SMS, email, instant messaging apps, any other voice recognition apps etc. at work as it is probably a lot easier way to leak company secrets using them compared to Siri.

What do you think about IBM’s move to ban Siri at work?