A report last month revealed that Apple had contractors listening to and grading Siri responses, which in turn meant that those contractors heard private conversations from users. Now, Apple has been hit with its first class-action over this practice.
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The lawsuit, first spotted by Kif Lewsing, was filed in federal court in Northern California. The plaintiffs accuse Apple of “unlawful and intentional recording of individuals’ confidential communications without their consent.” The lawsuit alleges that Apple has violated California’s Invasion of Privacy Act, the Unfair Competition Law, the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and the Declaratory Judgment Act.
The plaintiffs allege that Apple’s terms and conditions made no reference to the fact that their recordings would be saved and listened to by Apple employees. They say that anyone who has owned a device with Siri since 2011 is affected by this lawsuit.
At no point did Plaintiffs consent to these unlawful recordings. Apple does not disclose that Siri Devices record conversations that are not preceded by a wake phrase or gesture. Plaintiffs Lopez and A.L., therefore, did not agree to be recorded by their Siri Devices, respectively. Moreover, Apple could not have obtained consent from Plaintiff A.L., a minor without an Apple account.
The lawsuit also puts emphasis on Siri interactions being recorded due to accidental activations of “Hey Siri.” It also notes of Apple’s stance firm public stance on privacy:
Apple has sought to distinguish itself from competing technology companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Apple that have been implicated in scandals involving the collection, sharing or selling of user data by touting its privacy protections.
In 2018, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook accused rivals of conducting “surveillance” and commented “not everyone sees it that way . . . [t]he desire to put profits over privacy is nothing new.”
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages, and for Apple to be required to delete all Siri recordings.
Last month’s report from the Guardian explained that Apple contractors responsible for grading Siri responses regularly heard “confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.”
Last week, Apple issued a new statement on the situation and said that it was conducting a thorough internal review of its Siri grading practices, and suspending the program during the review. Once Siri grading is reinstated, Apple says that users will be given the option to opt-out.
Read the full lawsuit here.