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What You Need to Know About Apple's Siri Data Retention

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News Posted: Fri, Apr 19 2013 12:10 PM
You may want to think twice the next time you ask Siri a personal question, or even goof around with a question like, "Where can I hide a dead body?" What you may not realize is that every interaction is stored on Apple's servers for up to two years. That doesn't necessarily mean anything you ask will ever come back to haunt you in some way, but if you're a staunch privacy advocate, it might give you pause.

Apple disclosed its data retention policy after Wired ran a story about some "fuzzy disclosures" in Siri's privacy policy that was brought to its attention by Nicole Ozer, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer. Here's the entry that raised some eyebrows:

"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."

iPhones with Siri

Pressed for clarification, Apple spokesman Trudy Muller told Wired that each time you speak to Siri, that information is transferred to Apple's servers for analysis. Apple then generates random numbers to represent the user and associates voice files with that number. It bears repeating that it's a random number and not your Apple ID or email address.

Apple holds onto your the voice recording for six months, after which time it "disassociates" and deletes your user number from the voice file. However, those disassociated files are still stored for up to 18 additional months. Why? Apple claims it uses them for product testing and to improve Siri.

Most people will find this reasonable, though Ozer says it'd be better if Apple provided a link to its Siri privacy policy on is Siri FAQ so consumers can be better informed before jumping into Apple's ecosystem. She also says Siri users should take caution when using Siri, especially when revealing personal data, noting that "Siri works for Apple."
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Or just store it anonymously from the get go.

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