Home opinion-and-analysis ShawThing Siri never forgets – well for at least two years

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Married men may well understand that their wife never forgets either – well Siri is right up there too.

Apple has revealed that Siri stores your voice data for two years. Sure it is somewhat anonymised but it still could be used as evidence against you.

Which raises the question about Internet privacy anyway – you have none.

To be fair Siri is not a person, she does not remember nor is she malicious (note to self – avoid all wife jokes). Siri is Apple's voice interface (just like a keyboard only husky) and the data is used to help profile how the user postures questions. One person may say “Nearest Thai restaurant” and another may say “Local restaurant, perhaps Thai”. A kind of you say ‘Tomaaato and I say Tooomato’ and the trade-off is that it takes time to build the users profile so Siri can get on with the job.

Internet privacy however is something that does not exist “Privacy is dead – get over it” says security expert Steve Rambam (not his real name obviously – 'I would like you to meet Mr Rambam thank you mam).

The argument today is not about what is stored but who stores it and what they use it for.

Rule one: Assume everything your put in email will come back to haunt you. By law, many law enforcement and national security agencies have open access without warrants, and other government departments on a need to know basis, to email (and it does not matter if it is encrypted or not – master keys do exist).

Rule two: Assume that every web site you search for and visit is recorded (IP logs) and will be used at some time either in relation to customising advertising or to discover intent. Due to the volume many ISP’s only keep these logs for shorter period from a few weeks to as long as two years.

Rule three: Since voice transmission i.e. PSTN and VoIP is now almost all digital it is much easier to monitor for key words. Carnivore (now euphemistically called the Digital Collection System or DCS) was implemented by the FBI and although long upgraded and infinitely more powerful this packet sniffer can find almost any pattern.

Rule four: Every torrent you download is recorded in more detail than just the IP address. This is important in copyright (a.k.a. piracy) cases. Because of its nature Torrents need to record much more information than just the starting point for the download.

Fact: ISP’s store email and IP logs. Most Western countries follow UK law and hold for one year or US tradition (no law yet) for two years and some hold as long as they have storage space. We understand but cannot confirm that many Asian, Middle East and Eastern European countries require ‘ongoing storage’ which could explain the stoush that BlackBerry had with some countries by storing email on Canadian servers instead of locally where the country's requirements would apply.

Which brings me back to Siri – never whisper sweet nothings unless you mean it.

If you are interested in Big Data read the iTWire article here.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!