Apple Inc. on Tuesday told lawmakers in the U.S. that its popular iPhones are not listening to users without consent and are not allowing third-party apps to do that either. This came after lawmakers asked Apple if the users’ privacy was being invaded by the devices.
Four U.S. representatives wrote to CEO Tim Cook as well as CEO Larry Page of Alphabet last month. The letter cited concerns over reports that smartphones were able to collect audio data referred to as “non-triggered,” from conversations users had close to smartphones in order for them to hear a trigger phrase such as “Hey Siri” or “Okay Google.”
In a letter that was addressed one of the representatives who is the chairperson of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the maker of iPhones said the company’s handsets do not record audio when listening for wakeup commands for Siri and Siri does not share any spoken words.
Apple added that it requires its users to explicitly approve any microphone access and that apps need to display signals that show they are in a listening mode.
The letters followed hearings on Capitol Hill during April into the privacy practices of Facebook that included testimony by Mark Zuckerberg the social media giant’s CEO.
A spokesperson for the House Energy and Commerce Committee that is a Republican majority said the two companies have thus far been cooperative. The Committee is looking forward to analyzing and reviewing their responses as the next steps are considered.
Apple wrote it removed apps from the App Store over violations of privacy but would not say if it had banned any developers. It added that it was in the hands of developers to notify the user when apps were removed for reasons of privacy.
Apple wrote that it does not and is unable to monitor what the developer does with data from the customer they collected or can it prevent onward transfer of said data, nor does the company have an ability to ensure the compliance of a developer with their privacy policies or the local law.
The maker of iPhones said its App Store generated revenue of more than $100 billion for developers the last decade. Apple told the lawmakers in the letter that it had rejected close to 36,000 apps from amongst the 100,000 submitted weekly for guideline violations.