Always-on 'Hey Siri' does not offload audio, Live Photo buffering stays on device, Apple says

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2015
Two iPhone 6s features revealed this week, always-on "Hey Siri" voice monitoring and pre-buffered Live Photo camera functionality, raised concerns that Apple might be surreptitiously monitoring users, but the company allayed those fears in a statement on Friday.




In an email to TechCrunch, Apple said its new iPhone 6s features do not upload audio or visual data to offsite servers for processing, as some have proposed. The potential privacy issue came to the fore after industry watchers speculated Apple's cordless "Hey Siri" feature offloaded microphone data to the cloud for analysis.

"In no case is the device recording what the user says or sending that information to Apple before the feature is triggered," Apple said.

With certain tech companies commoditizing user data as ad-based revenue, oftentimes without clear notification, the public has become increasingly wary of automated services.

Apple's new feature lets users invoke the virtual assistant at any time by saying the phrase, "Hey Siri." The hands-free function has been available since iOS 8, but could only be used when a device was plugged into a power source. With iPhone 6s, the device is constantly monitoring audio input in the background, a process made possible by the highly efficient M9 motion coprocessor embedded in Apple's new A9 system-on-chip.

As explained by TechCrunch, iPhone 6s creates a digital signature of a user saying, "Hey Siri," recorded in a setup process when the feature is first activated. Incoming audio signals are continuously compared against a user's stored voice signature, a process that can be completed locally. Once a match is detected, Siri will activate and connect to a network for facilitating user queries and commands.

"The 'listening' audio, which will be continuously overwritten, will be used to improve Siri's response time in instances where the user activates Siri," Apple said.




As for Live Photos, another iPhone 6s exclusive that lets users automatically capture a video-like image burst from just before to just after a still shot is taken, Apple ensures user privacy by carefully managing how on-device data is stored. More specifically, the system constantly buffers 1.5 seconds' worth of footage when the Camera app is open.

"Although the camera is 'recording' while you're in Live Photo mode, the device will not save the 1.5 seconds before until you press the camera button," the company said. "The pre-captured images are not saved to the user's device nor are they sent off the device."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    Just make sure you preview your shot before sharing it. If you're naked when you shoot, then drop the angle down after shooting, you might be sharing your junk.
  • Reply 2 of 31
    It's interesting to learn how Apple is pulling off some of its tricks of voice and photos... For one thing I was wondering how the iPhone "knew" a person was about to take a picture.
  • Reply 3 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post



    It's interesting to learn how Apple is pulling off some of its tricks of voice and photos... For one thing I was wondering how the iPhone "knew" a person was about to take a picture.



    Oh that's simple... while you're in the Camera app, the screen is constantly showing you a live image of what the camera sees... that's data that already has to be processed to turn it into pixels on the screen. The Live image is simply a rolling buffer in volatile memory. A similar concept is used on TV to allow them to have a 6 second delay on broadcast to insert a bleep if someone uttered a swearword. 

  • Reply 4 of 31
    It's funny how this only becomes a common concern when it's an Apple product, yet Apple is the one company that would benefit least from gathering such data without your concern. It's also funny that only when this becomes a feature does it register at all with those that follow tech, even though these built-in mics and cameras could have been listening and watching for years without you knowing. At least on "PCs" when the camera is active there is light to let you know (even though the light could be disabled) but with the mic you would never know.
  • Reply 5 of 31
    That's what I was saying in the other thread!

    So, it's just a digital signature of YOUR voice saying "hey Siri" with the low-power M9 chip doing the signature match to wake up Siri and the A9 CPU. It's like Shazam song recognition.
  • Reply 6 of 31
    That's what I was saying in the other thread!

    So, it's just a digital signature of YOUR voice saying "hey Siri" with the low-power M9 chip doing the signature match to wake up Siri and the A9 CPU. It's like Shazam song recognition.

    which is so obvious that it is disturbing to me that Apple even had to send out a letter.. as if Apple would be constantly sending an audio stream back to servers to hear "hey Siri"

    seems the greatest issue with technology being used by the every man is that the every man has no idea how technology works or I dare say, how to use it
  • Reply 7 of 31
    I want to know more about the file format of live photos, what's the extension, can I just drop one in a message to a friend and will they see it, what if they don't have iOS9/OSX10.11.. does it appear to them just as a JPEG.. can we make live photos without the camera app on an iPhone 6s
  • Reply 8 of 31
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Yet Giggle is running free. Spying on you and selling your soul.
  • Reply 9 of 31
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,748member
    which is so obvious that it is disturbing to me that Apple even had to send out a letter.. as if Apple would be constantly sending an audio stream back to servers to hear "hey Siri"

    seems the greatest issue with technology being used by the every man is that the every man has no idea how technology works or I dare say, how to use it
    Agreed. This is likely near-identical to Motorola's version, a dedicated low-power chip listening for a wake-up phrase.(In Moto's case you can create your own). Google Now does the same. Amazon's Echo operates the same way except that I doubt it uses a low-power chip since it's AC-powered. None of these is sending what it hears "back to the hive" without the user first activating it with the wake-up phrase.

    The user knows when it's listening and sending. These devices aren't doing so surreptitiously.
  • Reply 10 of 31
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    which is so obvious that it is disturbing to me that Apple even had to send out a letter.. as if Apple would be constantly sending an audio stream back to servers to hear "hey Siri"

    seems the greatest issue with technology being used by the every man is that the every man has no idea how technology works or I dare say, how to use it
    They were putting out the startup of a Siri-is-spying-on-me-gate fluffle. Which was already starting. And that's not every man, that's their competitors.
  • Reply 11 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post



    It's funny how this only becomes a common concern when it's an Apple product, yet Apple is the one company that would benefit least from gathering such data without your concern. It's also funny that only when this becomes a feature does it register at all with those that follow tech, even though these built-in mics and cameras could have been listening and watching for years without you knowing.

    It is funnier how you are completely wrong about this only becoming a concern when it is an Apple product.

     

    -kpluck

  • Reply 12 of 31
    kpluck wrote: »
    It is funnier how you are completely wrong about this only becoming a concern when it is an Apple product.

    -kpluck

    where are the letters from US senators concerned about Samsung fingerprint technology?
  • Reply 13 of 31
    Apple isn't Google. It doesn't want/need every bit of information on you.
  • Reply 14 of 31
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

     

    It is funnier how you are completely wrong about this only becoming a concern when it is an Apple product.

     

    -kpluck


     

    Ahem, no. Samsung/Android together are security and privacy sieves, yet you mostly don't hear much about it... Maybe nobody expects anything good from them ;-), or maybe doesn't spend a lot of money on PR FUD.

  • Reply 15 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post





    which is so obvious that it is disturbing to me that Apple even had to send out a letter.. as if Apple would be constantly sending an audio stream back to servers to hear "hey Siri"



    seems the greatest issue with technology being used by the every man is that the every man has no idea how technology works or I dare say, how to use it

     

    No, it'S PR FUD that's instigated by the competition. This kind of thing doesn't really happen by "accident".

    When this kind of thing suddenly gets to all media at the same time and erupts, it's doesn't come from normal concerns, but fanned flames from not so desinteressed parties....

    I got a PR degree (among others...) and you learn about those things right in the classes.

  • Reply 16 of 31
    I want to know more about the file format of live photos, what's the extension, can I just drop one in a message to a friend and will they see it, what if they don't have iOS9/OSX10.11.. does it appear to them just as a JPEG.. can we make live photos without the camera app on an iPhone 6s

    I'm taking a wild guess here... but it seems awfully close to the promises eons ago of JPEG 2000 (.jp2 ) and Motion JPEG 2000 ( .mj2)

    I'm a bit curious as well, but I understand Facebook will be integrating it in their iOS App, so I'm just going to assume that "most" Apple devices using the upcoming IOS9 and El Capitan will be able to see them across apps and services just fine. Windows 10 devices probably too since Live Pictures is similar tech... but Android?
  • Reply 17 of 31
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,980member

    One thing about photo taking I have wished for years.  I wish with each photo an audio can be recorded and played back.  Live Photo is exactly the feature I ordered many years ago.

  • Reply 18 of 31
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,748member
    foggyhill wrote: »
    No, it'S PR FUD that's instigated by the competition...
    PR FUD instigated by the competition that has their own "always listening" search features and already struggled with the same uninformed claims? Ridiculous. Of course the competiton isn't going to throw FUD at Apple over this. They have to deal with the same silliness.

    IMHO this FUD is coming primarily from the fringes of the Apple owning tin-foil hat crowd, not competitors.
  • Reply 19 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CogitoDexter View Post

     



    Oh that's simple... while you're in the Camera app, the screen is constantly showing you a live image of what the camera sees... that's data that already has to be processed to turn it into pixels on the screen. The Live image is simply a rolling buffer in volatile memory. A similar concept is used on TV to allow them to have a 6 second delay on broadcast to insert a bleep if someone uttered a swearword. 




    Nice concise way to put it.

     

    I read a pure garbage article from Gawker written by a dumbfuck who doesn't understand (or doesn't want to understand) technology saying that Apple is spying constantly:

     

    http://gawker.com/the-new-iphone-is-set-to-record-you-whether-you-ask-it-1729857048

  • Reply 20 of 31
    gatorguy wrote: »
    PR FUD instigated by the competition that has their own "always listening" search features and already struggled with the same uninformed claims? Ridiculous. Of course the competiton isn't going to throw FUD at Apple over this. They have to deal with the same silliness.

    IMHO this FUD is coming primarily from the fringes of the Apple owning tin-foil hat crowd, not competitors.

    But they'll gladly extend bend gate even though their phones bend under pressure as well. Apple generates headlines and page clicks.
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