Siri—and the Humans Behind Her—Might Have Heard Some of Your Most Private Moments

SIphotography/iStock via Getty Images
SIphotography/iStock via Getty Images

An Apple contractor has come forward with alarming—yet not altogether surprising—information about just how much of your life Siri and her human referees may have heard. The anonymous whistleblower told The Guardian that “there have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters, and so on.”

Here’s how that happens. Apple sends a small percentage (less than 1 percent) of Siri activations to outside contractors, who then listen to the recordings to discern whether the activation was on purpose or by accident, whether or not the request was something Siri could fulfill, and whether or not the virtual assistant responded appropriately. This “grading” process is designed to help Apple developers with quality control and improvement, but according to The Guardian, the tech titan doesn’t actually disclose to consumers that humans might be listening to their interactions. Even some of Siri’s banter muddles the truth; for example, the system responds to the question “Are you always listening?” with “I only listen when you’re talking to me.”

An Apple representative told The Guardian that the recordings aren’t grouped with other recordings from the same user, and they’re not linked to your Apple ID. But The Guardian’s source explained that recordings can include addresses, names, and other personal information that would make it relatively simple to track down a user if you wanted to. And, since Apple uses independent contractors for this work, “there’s not much vetting of who works there, and the amount of data that we’re free to look through is quite broad … It’s not like people are being encouraged to have consideration for people’s privacy.”

The reason so many sensitive conversations are captured by Siri in the first place is because the virtual assistant is easily activated by accident. It starts recording whenever it registers the phrase “Hey Siri,” or anything that remotely resembles it, sometimes even just the sound of a zipper. The contractor emphasized that the Apple Watch and HomePod smart speaker are most often the culprits of accidental recordings.

The good news is that Apple now seems to understand how much this news has probably freaked you out. The Guardian reported today that Apple has suspended its grading program indefinitely while it conducts a review. “We are committed to delivering a great Siri experience while protecting user privacy,” the statement said. “As part of a future software update, users will have the ability to choose to participate in grading.”

[h/t The Guardian]

PopSockets Is Rolling Out a Line of Drink Holders

PopSockets
PopSockets

PopSockets have become something of a fidgeting consumer’s dream. The cute and accordion-esque accessory knob that attaches to phones allows for an improved grip and gives people something to noodle with. Now, the company is hoping you’ll recognize the value in having a PopSockets appliance for your hot and cold drinks.

The PopThirst Cup Sleeve and the PopThirst Can Holder resemble insulated sleeves you can purchase for beverages. But these sleeves have a socket for a PopGrip attachment, which you can thread between your fingers to make for a more secure grip. This might be beneficial in the car, where bumpy roads can prompt more spills.

A PopSockets PopThirst cup sleeve is pictured
PopSockets

Holding a drink with the PopGrip acting as a handle seems a little more precarious. Most people will not do this, but if they do, you will probably find the consequences on Instagram.

Since going on sale in 2014, PopSockets has become a phone accessory giant, moving 100 million units in 2018.

The PopThirst Cup Sleeve and Can Holder are both one-size-fits-all and retail for $15 each.

[h/t The Verge]

Missing the Days of Clippy? There’s an App That Will Bring Him Back

The Science Elf, YouTube
The Science Elf, YouTube

Some Microsoft Office users might still brace for the appearance of a certain nosy, wide-eyed paper clip whenever they type Dear at the top of a fresh Word document. After all, Clippy was the anthropomorphic pet we never asked for, yet tolerated through several formative years of computer technology.

Though Clippy—short for Clippit—may have been on the receiving end of an industry-wide eye roll in the late 1990s, it’s hard to ignore how much he seems like an early, distant ancestor to applications like Alexa and Siri, upon whom society has developed a pretty significant reliance. Whether you think about the injustice against Clippy every day or you’re just a normal person who likes any excuse to indulge in ‘90s nostalgia, we have news for you: You can rescue him from the void and host him on your very own Mac desktop.

According to Lifehacker, the app was created by a developer named Devran “Cosmo” Uenal, who debuted the program on Github earlier this month. This rather chilled-out Clippy won’t burst into your Word document and offer unsolicited advice on how to write letters, but he’ll still entertain you with animated performances if you right-click on him and choose “Animate!”

As you can see in Uenal’s Twitter video, he might don a pair of oversized headphones and mime a music jam sessions, or he might transform into a googly-eyed, heavy-eyebrowed checkmark.

To download the paperclip pal for yourself, scroll down to the “First start” section on the Github page and click “Download Clippy for macOS,” which should trigger an automatic download. Click on that installation file, and then follow the rest of the directions in the “First start” section to open Clippy on your desktop. From there, the fun is endless.

And, if you’re hungry for more history about the world’s most hated virtual assistant, you can read more about his tragic life here.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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