A new beta version of iOS 15.4 has been released to correct a bug that was sending Siri audio recordings from certain iPhones to Apple even after users opted out of the recording program. The issue was first recognized with iOS 15.2 and Apple claims the recordings have since been deleted.
Here’s what Apple told ZDNet about the timeline:
"With iOS 15.2, we turned off the Improve Siri & Dictation setting for many Siri users while we fixed a bug introduced with iOS 15. This bug inadvertently enabled the setting for a small portion of devices. Since identifying the bug, we stopped reviewing and are deleting audio received from all affected devices."
Naturally, the first question one might have is why wasn’t this problem announced upon discovery? Compounding things is the fact that Apple also failed to inform users that the setting had been disabled during the release of iOS 15.2. At this time it’s unclear how many iPhone users were affected or how many unauthorized recordings were taken.
A strange callback— This misstep in privacy is reminiscent of a period in 2019 when the option to disable the improvement of Siri’s dictation didn’t exist. As the Guardian reported back then, some Siri recordings were sent to human contractors in order to provide quality control for the voice assistant. At the time Apple had not explicitly disclosed the practice, and there were instances where highly-sensitive information was recorded unintentionally without the knowledge of the parties involved.
Accordingly, the option to disable Siri recordings was implemented in October 2019, with the release of iOS 13.2
For those planning on updating to iOS 15.4 beta, there will be a setup screen that allows users to choose whether or not they would like to opt into improving “Siri & Dictation” by sending recordings to Apple. Electing to opt out, will prevent your Siri interactions from being sent to the company.