Apple Canceled Siri Voice Commerce Plans Over Privacy Concerns: Report

Apple planned to add voice commerce as a feature to Siri three years ago before shutting down development over potential privacy issues, according to a report from The Information. Siri users would have been able to order products and services by voice command, but privacy rules made development too difficult, despite Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant succeeding in implementing voice commerce features.

Privacy Over Commerce

Engineers at Apple began experimenting with Siri-based voice commerce in 2019. Apple shut down the project not long afterward when the developers couldn’t overcome the hurdles of Apple’s privacy rules. Specifically, Apple’s rules forbade Siri from connecting voice orders to a user’s Apple ID. Without that verification and link to payment methods, it would be impossible for someone to make a purchase and confirm who they are purely by voice command. The developers couldn’t confirm who should be billed when a user made a purchase by voice and had to shelve their plans entirely.

The privacy rules Apple sets are designed to make users feel comfortable with the ever-present technology. That may succeed, but one drawback is that there’s a limit to the data Apple engineers can pull from their software services. In comparison, Amazon and Google’s respective user agreements don’t preclude hoovering up all the usage data they can reach. This allows for voice commerce and other personalized features, at the cost of occasional privacy complaints or regulatory fights. Apple has attempted to reap the benefits of data without compromising privacy rules through methods like differential privacy, which anonymizes data on a user’s device before it’s ever sent to Apple. And sometimes debates get resolved in favor of implementing a feature regardless. For instance, privacy arguments almost prevented the Apple Watch Raise to Speak feature, which replaces a verbal wake word with a gesture, before Apple decided it would not violate their privacy rules after all.


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