Apple says it doesn’t listen in on consumers, despite concerns

Donna Miller
August 9, 2018

Apple in the letter also laid out numerous policies it has shared publicly about its data collection and data use practices, which reflect what consumers see in the privacy policies they're asked to review when they buy an Apple device.

Apple in its response, which it shared with The Washington Post, said that its Siri voice assistant does not collect data unless it hears the trigger phrase, "Hey Siri".

Apple pointedly emphasized that different companies approach data collection differently.

"We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely design our products and services to minimize our collection of customer data", the August 7 letter from Powderly says. Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The letter came after Walden and other Republicans on the committee pressed Apple and Google for more information on their data collection practices last month, questioning whether consumers' smartphones collected location or audio data without their knowledge. The letter to Google's Page included references to reports claiming Android collects user location data and sends it back to Alphabet's Google, even if users disabled the device's location services beforehand.

It's unclear whether Alphabet, the parent company of Google, replied to USA lawmakers, but a spokesperson House Energy and Commerce Committee said "both companies have been cooperative thus far". The letter to Cook reportedly raised fewer issues, but still queried if iPhones collect and transmit "extensive location data".

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Facebook, which has also been accused of listening to user conversations, said it does not capture data from a microphone or camera without permission.

The letter comes in response to an inquiry from Representatives Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta.

This followed congressional hearings into Facebook's privacy practices, after news emerged that its APIs had been exploited to harvest personal data from users. The company clams third-party apps are not doing so either.

Apple responded with a letter of their own debunking the reports, while adding it does not allow third-party apps to listen in either.

iPhones without SIM cards will send a limited amount of information about cellular towers and Wi-Fi hotspots to Apple if the user has enabled location services. Answers from the company noted it adheres to laws in countries it does business within, and in relation to promoting freedom of expression and privacy rights, Apple's presence throughout the world is "the most effective way it can make a difference" in such countries.

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