Apple assured U.S. lawmakers, as well as the general public, that iPhones are not secretly listening to their conversations, debunking conspiracy theories that the devices are spying on them.
Apple Says iPhones Don't Listen To Conversations
In July, the U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook to seek clarity on how the company protects consumer data.
Apple Director of Government Affairs Timothy Powderly responded to that letter in detail, with an emphasis on how much the company values user privacy.
"The customer is not our product, and our business model does not depend on collecting vast amounts of personally identifiable information to enrich targeted profiles marketed to advertisers," Powderly said, taking a shot at the other company that received a letter from the U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce — Google.
According to Powderly, the iPhone only listens to people when attempting to recognize the voice command "Hey Siri." iPhones will then display a visual alert when Siri is listening to what the user is saying. In its guidelines, Apple also requires developers to show a visual indicator whenever their iOS apps are collecting audio the iPhone's microphone, for which users will need to explicitly provide permission.
Apple, however, admitted that it will not be able to monitor what developers do with the customer data that their apps collect, nor will it be able to make sure that developers comply with privacy policies and local law. The iPhone itself being used as a spying device by Apple, however, was vehemently denied.
How To Make Sure Your iPhone Is Not Spying On You
Apple's letter detailed all the ways that users will be able to reduce the data that is being collected on them, including turning off Siri's voice activation feature, location tracking, and data gathering by third-party apps.
Users who are uncomfortable that their iPhones are waiting for them to say "Hey Siri," the option may be deactivated through the Siri menu under Settings.
Meanwhile, for users who do not want their iPhone and third-party apps tracking their locations, head over to the Privacy menu under Settings. From there, it will be easy to turn off all Location Services. However, users should know that this will prevent some apps from working properly, such as Weather and Uber.