Apple told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that its iPhones do not listen to users without their consent and do not allow third-party apps to do so, either, after lawmakers asked the company if its devices were invading users’ privacy.
Reps. Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta wrote to Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Alphabet chief executive Larry Page in July, citing concerns about reports that smartphones could “collect ‘non-triggered’ audio data from users’ conversations near a smartphone in order to hear a ‘trigger’ phrase, such as ‘OK, Google’ or ‘Hey, Siri.’”
In a letter to Walden, R-Ore., who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Apple said iPhones do not record audio while listening for Siri wake-up commands and Siri does not share spoken words.
Apple said it requires users to explicitly approve microphone access and that apps must display a clear signal that they are listening.
The letters, in which lawmakers cited reports suggesting third-party applications had access to and used ‘non-triggered’ data without users’ knowledge, followed congressional hearings in April into Facebook’s privacy practices, which included testimony by its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Alphabet did not respond to questions about whether it had replied to lawmakers. Apple declined to comment beyond its letter, which was seen by Reuters.
Apple wrote that it had removed apps from its App Store over privacy violations but declined to say whether it had ever banned a developer. It also said it was up to developers to notify users when an app was removed for privacy reasons.