A Northern California judge today dismissed a class action lawsuit that accused Apple of the “unlawful and intentional” recording of confidential Siri communications without user consent.
The class action lawsuit was first filed in August 2019 after it became known that Apple had employed contractors to listen to and grade some anonymized Siri conversations for product improvement purposes.
Those contractors told The Guardian that they overheard confidential medical details, drug deals, and other private information from accidental Siri activations, and some expressed concern that users were not adequately informed about the recordings.
As noted by Bloomberg, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said that the plaintiffs in the class action case did not provide enough detail about the alleged recordings that Apple collected. The plaintiffs are required to prove that they have suffered injury from Apple’s actions in a “concrete and particularized” way that’s not “conjectural or hypothetical.”
All of the allegations in the lawsuit were based on information that was included in the original story from The Guardian highlighting Apple’s use of contractors to analyze Siri data, with the plaintiffs providing no proof that their own private data was accidentally collected by Apple and misused.
The Guardian article does not plausibly suggest that all Apple’s devices were subject to accidental triggers and review by third party contractors, much less that such interception always occurred in reasonably private settings. The article discusses frequency of accidental triggers primarily in relation to the Apple Watch and the HomePod speakers, neither of which are owned by the Plaintiffs.
Moreover, the article expressly states that only a “small portion” of daily Siri activations including were sent to contractors and that they included both deliberate and accidental activations. Finally, although the article describes private communications among the recordings sent to contractors, Plaintiffs allege no facts to suggest that their own private communications were intercepted by accidental triggers.
Though Apple’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit was granted, the judge in the case is allowing the consumers involved in the lawsuit to revise and refile within 20 days, so Apple is not in the clear as of yet.
Following the class action lawsuit and other negative public feedback, Apple temporarily suspended and overhauled its Siri evaluation program, and in iOS 13.2, added an option to let users delete Siri history and opt out of sharing audio recordings.