By watching the commercials, you’d think Siri was your new best friend or personal assistant. You can trust Siri to tell you if it’s raining outside, remind you when the gazpacho will be done, and read your e-mails to you while you’re walking to work. But how can you trust Siri when the user agreement clearly states the words you say will be sent directly to Apple?
It’s enough of an issue that IBM decided to ban its workers from using Siri at work. The theory was that Siri might capture important IBM-related data and, since IBM is an electronics company, it isn’t too excited at the prospect of that data being submitted directly to Apple…its competition.
But IBM is notoriously cautious when it comes to personal mobile device usage by employees. While the company allows workers to use personal devices on its network, IBM uses technology that can erase a device’s memory if a worker loses it. Once workers put a personal iPhone on the company’s network, they also are required to swap iCloud for IBM’s own Cloud-based file storage system, MyMobileHub.
The agreement also informs the user that every dictation is sent to Apple to be converted to text. Every dictation is converted to text by Apple, which means every word you speak is likely stored on Apple’s server. While Apple probably doesn’t care about your random trivia questions and reminder requests, a company like IBM can’t help but be concerned about workers’ daily Siri rants, especially when those are work-related.
The outcry began at this year’s South By Southwest conference, where attendees were told that Siri wasn’t just a personal assistant for the user. As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) put it, Siri works full-time for Apple, collecting user data and helping the company build its databases.
As a result, the ACLU provided instructions on deactivating Siri, putting a stop to the personal data collection forever. By leaving Siri on, the ACLU warned that Apple may have access to a user’s entire list of contacts, songs and playlists in your collection, and even the places you go every day.
The move by IBM shouldn’t be a surprise to Apple, who safeguards information about its device development like the country’s entire future depends on it. IBM also asks workers to disable all dictation features on the iPhone and iPad as extra security measures.
“We’re just extraordinarily conservative,” IBM Chief Information Officer Jeanette Horan told Technology Review. “It’s the nature of our business.”
Horan pointed out that the company still issues Blackberries to 40,000 of its 400,000 employees with an additional 80,000 using other devices, including personal smartphones and tablets. This personal device usage has opened the door to a wide range of security issues that many companies today are facing. By carefully checking the user agreements of all apps on personal devices, as IBM has with Siri, companies can begin to protect themselves against potential security breaches with large-scale ramifications.