Apple will keep conversations with Siri and HomePod a secret – CNET

siri-private
James Martin/CNET

Apple will hear you loud and clear.

After introducing the HomePod at the Worldwide Developers’ Conference on Monday, Apple adds another layer to concerns over privacy and security in the home. Voice assistants have already taken over homes with Amazon’s Echo, the Google Home, and Microsoft recently jumped into the fray with its Cortana speakers.

While all of these speakers have raised privacy issues of their own, Apple strikes a special nerve with its HomePod thanks to the massive company’s popularity. As the largest tech company in the world, Apple has a target on its back, from both governments and hackers.

Compared with the first six months of 2016, security orders from US law enforcement to Apple doubled to about 6,000 during the second half of the year, the company disclosed in late May.

Apple is fully aware of just how much information people share with their voice assistants — like what music they listen to, where they want to eat, what plans they have for later that night — and made a strong effort to protect its users’ information.

Like Amazon and Google’s voice assistants, they won’t always be listening unless a person activates it with a wake word. With the HomePod, it’ll be “Hey Siri.”

“Our team cares deeply about your privacy,” Apple’s senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller said. “It has that magic phrase, ‘Hey Siri.’ Until you say it, nothing’s being sent to Apple.”

And when the data does get sent, it’s both anonymized and encrypted. That means that your voice commands are not tied to your Apple ID, and even Apple isn’t able to view it.

So far, data stored on Amazon’s servers are not anonymized. Google Home’s assistant is able to access a user’s search and location history, and stores data on voice commands until it’s been deleted.

The FBI declined to disclose how often it requests voice data from Amazon’s Echo, but the retail giant has shown that it can retrieve Alexa recordings from specific users in a criminal investigation.

The encryption for conversations with HomePod sticks with Apple’s push for user privacy from the government. The same way that WhatsApp encrypts all its messages so that it won’t be able to comply with government orders

 This mindset also helped Apple fight off the FBI’s demands to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone in 2016.

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