The lawsuit claims that Apple’s premiere voice assistant collects and sells conversation data to marketers, even when Siri isn’t intentionally activated.
A federal judge said that Apple must face most of the claims filed in a class action lawsuit alleging that its voice-activated ‘Siri’ service violates user privacy.
According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said that plaintiffs may be able to prove that Siri recorded private conversations because of so-called “accidental activations.”
Apple, added White, may have then disclosed these conversations to third-parties, such as advertising firms or marketing companies.
While Siri and other “voice assistants” are programmed to react to specific key words—such as, “Hey, Siri”—users have long suspected their technology may be listening to them around-the-clock.
One class participant said that he was discussing a “brand name surgical treatment” with his doctor. Shortly afterward, targeted advertisements for the treatment began appearing across his social media—even though he had never searched for it, or otherwise engaged with similar health care-related content online.
Other class members had similar stories. Two users said they started getting ads for Air Jordan sneakers, Pit Viper sunglasses, and Olive Garden restaurants after discussing these topics between themselves.
“Apple faults plaintiffs for not alleging the contents of their communications, but the private setting alone is enough to show a reasonable expectation of privacy,” White wrote.
Judge White said the class could pursue claims that Apple violated the federal Wiretap Act, as well as California state privacy statutes.
However, White did dismiss an unfair competition claim.
Apple, though, has repeatedly asked for all the claims to be dismissed.
“Apple believes that privacy is a fundamental human right and designed Siri so users could enable or disable it at any time,” Apple said in an earlier motion to dismiss the suit. “Apple actively works to improve Siri to prevent inadvertent triggers and provides visual and audio cues (acknowledged by several Plaintiffs) so users know when Siri is triggered.”
Other companies, including Google and Amazon, are facing similar complaints.
Google has since said that its search engine and Android-based voice assistants do not violate users’ privacy.
“By default, we don’t retain your audio recordings and make it easy to manage your privacy preferences, with things like simple answers to your privacy questions or enabling Guest Mode,” spokesman José Castañeda said in a statement. “We dispute the claims in this case and will vigorously defend ourselves.”
Amazon, adds The Washington Post, has also denied the claims against it. Amazon spokesperson Faith Eischen said that Amazon devices do not listen to conversations expect when they are intentionally activated.
Furthermore, Eischen said that only a “small fraction” of Alexa voice commands are ever manually reviewed.