Wired reports that IBM has banned Siri, iPhone’s voice-activated digital assistant, its headquarters network. Employees trying to use John Malkovich’s new friend will be foiled. Why? IBM CIO Jeanette Horan told MIT’s Technology Review that the company worries that conversations with Siri might be stored somewhere. And indeed they are. Siri relays everything she hears to an Apple data center in Maiden, North Carolina. What happens to it then is anybody’s guess.
Apple’s iPhone Software License Agreement warns you that you are giving up your information, just like those happy drug ads on TV warn you that their wonder drugs might cause insanity, paralysis, blindness, and genital rot. “When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text,” Apple informs iPhone users. Siri also collects the names in your address book and other data. The user agreement doesn’t enlighten us as to how long all this data is stored, who sees it, or how it might be used…or sold to: “By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and other Apple products and services.”
I think IBM is right to be concerned, and it isn’t the first or the only one. The American Civil Liberties Union put out a warning about Siri a couple of months ago. Attorney John Steele, proprietor of the Legal Ethics Forum, alertly warned his readers that Siri’s loose lips raises confidentiality issues for attorneys: dictating case-related confidential information into Siri might constitute a breach of ethics. And I wonder: should Siri be covered by ethics rule 5.3, which requires lawyers to make sure their assistants keep confidences, or the ABA’s new proposed 1.1, which requires lawyers to understand the technology they use sufficiently to protect their clients?
Oh, Siri, Siri. Just when we were becoming so close!
Pointer: Legal Ethics Forum
Graphic: Business Insider
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