Judge Clears Siri Privacy Lawsuit Against Apple for Evidence Submission
Apple will have to face most of a class-action lawsuit filed over claims that Siri violated customer privacy after a federal judge ruled on the matter this week. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White gave the go-ahead for plaintiffs to attempt to prove that Siri would record and save private conversations due to accidental activations and that Apple shared those recordings with advertisers and other parties.
The lawsuit collected a variety of claims from those who said their privacy was violated. One claimed he started getting ads about a surgical treatment after Siri overheard a discussion with a doctor, while others claimed the voice assistant started targeting them for sneakers, sunglasses, and restaurant ads based on their discussions with others at a time that Siri should not have been actively listening. Judge White ruled that most of the claims as valid enough as potential violations of California data protection laws and the federal Wiretap Act to go forward. The ruling doesn’t mean that Apple has lost, however, only that the plaintiffs can try to prove their case in court. The judge did pull out the claims of unfair competition from the lawsuit, however, deeming them too tenuous to be valid legal allegations.
“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 in his ruling.
Apple started facing serious allegations about privacy violations after reports that contractors were listening to audio recordings made by Siri for quality control and improvement programs emerged in 2019. Nearly every voice assistant platform faced similar scrutiny for their similar programs at the time. They paused or rapidly revised their contractor programs. Apple apologized for its program and changed it to an opt-in system, removing contractors from the equation entirely. The original whistleblower claimed a year later that Apple hadn’t really changed its practices, however.