Apple apologizes for listening to Siri talk, sets new rules

In this file photo taken on June 5, 2017, a prototype of Apple's new HomePod is displayed during the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California. (AFP)
Updated 29 August 2019

Apple apologizes for listening to Siri talk, sets new rules

  • Google and Amazon have also announced changes to their programs in response to privacy concerns

WASHINGTON: Apple on Wednesday apologized for its digital assistant Siri sharing some of what it heard with quality control workers as it unveiled new rules for handling data from conversations.
Under the changes, Apple will allow its employees to review conversations only from customers who opt into the “Siri grading” program to improve the voice recognition technology. Apple will also delete by default any recordings used for the program.
“We realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize,” Apple said in a post.
“We’ve decided to make some changes to Siri” as a result of concerns expressed about the grading program, the company added. “Our goal with Siri, the pioneering intelligent assistant, is to provide the best experience for our customers while vigilantly protecting their privacy.”
Computer-generated transcripts will still be used to hone the ability of the software to understand what people say and mean, the company said.
Apple suspended the program after news broke that contractors were hearing confidential medical information, criminal dealings and even sexual encounters.
The California tech giant was among several firms scrutinized on using contractors to “listen” to conversations with digital assistants to improve the artificial intelligence software.
If customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of Siri interactions and they will “work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger” of the voice-commanded digital assistant, according to the company.
“We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place,” Apple said.
Google and Amazon have also announced changes to their programs in response to privacy concerns.


Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

Updated 24 February 2020

Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

  • MBC Group to support young film makers with training from industry professionals

LONDON: Young Arab film makers will have the opportunity to have their work showcased at next month’s Red Sea International Film Festival as investment in Saudi cinema gathers pace.

The Red Sea International Film Festival has announced a partnership with MBC Group, which will also broadcast the event’s opening ceremony on March 12.

As part of the deal, MBC Al Amal, MBC’s corporate social responsibility arm, will hold a Shorts pitch competition.

Ten short film projects will be selected from Saudi Arabia and the MENA region, with filmmakers being given a one-day workshop to prepare for a pitching session. 

Italian director and producer Stefano Tealdi will train the candidates to strengthen their skills and give them tips for better pitches, MBC said.

“We strongly believe that this new generation of talent is key in influencing change and creating the difference to the region’s media and entertainment content landscape, which of course includes independent film and mainstream cinema,” said Peter Smith, managing director of MBC Studios.

The region’s biggest broadcaster will also host talent days on March 17 and 18 to support Saudi scriptwriters, directors and producers.

The inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival takes place March 12-21 in Jeddah Old Town, under the theme “Changing the Script.” It aims to support and help grow Saudi Arabia’s emerging film industry which is attracting a slew of investment from homegrown dramas shot in the Kingdom to the construction of cinemas countrywide.

Real estate broker CBRE estimates that 45 new cinemas are expected to open this year.

The boom in cinema construction coincides with a push to develop the domestic Saudi film industry.

That is being driven by both the big and small screen as video-on-demand players that include MBC, Netflix and Amazon compete to deliver content that speaks to a young Arab audience.