The iPhone doesn’t spy on your conversations, Apple tells lawmakers

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 10, 2018

A man holds an Apple iPhone as he walks on a street in NY, U.S., August 1, 2018.

In July, the U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page asking for clarification on how consumer data protection is gathered and shared.

The letter - written by Apple's director of federal government affairs, Timothy Powderly - says that: "We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely design our products and services to minimize our collection of customer data".

The letters followed broader scrutiny of the way technology giants collect and use data in ways that may infringe on Americans' privacy.

Furthermore, Apple addressed customer data usage as well, saying that it "does not and can not monitor what developers do with the customer data they have collected, or prevent the onward transfer of that data, nor do we have the ability to ensure a developer's compliance with their own privacy policies or local law".

The letter, as Cook has done many times before, aims to distance Apple's business model from other large tech companies accused of mass data collection, adding that "the customer is not our product" - which is what Cook said when he discussed the necessity of regulation after Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Apple in its response, which it shared with The Washington Post, said that its Siri voice assistant does not collect data unless it hears the trigger phrase, "Hey Siri". The iOS operating system also permanently deletes data from an iPhone if the phone doesn't connect to Wi-Fi or power for seven days. However, the questions sent to Page included one that asked whether Google receives location data from users of Android phones, even if the handset's location services have been disabled. Additionally, Apple said Siri does not share spoken words, and that third-party apps need to get explicit approval from users for microphone access. "Unlike other companies, Apple does not obtain a historical record of location data associated with a customer's name or AppleID for any of our services", he writes.

In Apple's response, the company said the iPhone displays a visual alert when Siri is listening to someone's request. The information will be encrypted and isn't used for targeting advertising. The list includes contacts, photos, Bluetooth sharing, health, speech recognition and more.

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