IBM bars Siri from staff iPhones, citing security concerns
Siri, the voice-activated assistant in Apple Inc.'s iPhone 4S, is persona non grata at International Business Machines (IBM), which banished it from staff iPhones over security concerns, a tech site reported.
PC World said IBM claims it is concerned that Siri, which relies on Apple's servers to run, may inadvertently leak confidential information. The company has thus decided to disable the cloud-driven personal assistant on staff iPhones.
"The Siri ban is just one of a number of strict security measures implemented by IBM on devices bought into the company by employees," it said.
It cited a report on enthusiast site Cult of Mac saying IBM used the mobile device management (MDM) framework built into iOS to disable Siri on staff iPhone 4S units.
PC World noted Siri works by recording the user's voice and sending it to an Apple server that interprets the voice command and returns plain text.
Siri also improves its translations this way, as it uses crowd-sources dialects, learning from other people who are using the service.
But PC World said it may be far-fetched to suspect Apple could be collecting information about IBM secrets, although there is a possibility of a security breach.
PC World noted IBM is an advocate of BYOD (bring your own device), where companies allow staff to use their own Macs, PCs, phones, and tablets at work.
It cited research showing BYOD has already been embraced by 69 percent of firms in the United Kingdom.
Fearful of the cloud
Cult of Mac said IBM’s fear stems from Siri's cloud-based and crowd-sourced nature.
Aside from sending voice data to Apple for speech recognition and interpretation, Siri also requires access to personal information on an iPhone 4S like contacts and the relationships between an iPhone 4S user and his or her contacts, and even location data.
"That means that it’s quite possible that an IBM employee using an iPhone 4S might speak sensitive information while using Siri – composing an email or message to coworkers, adding or rearranging meetings and events, setting reminders, and using location services to find specific businesses and get directions are all common tasks that could reference or contain sensitive information," it said.
It added that if Siri is set to activate by raising the phone to one's face, "it can unintentionally activate, record a snippet of conversation, and try to interpret it."
Concern over dictation
Concern over dictation
A bigger concern is Siri-related dictation, which can be used in most apps that support text input, Cult of Mac said.
"The chances of sensitive information being gleaned by asking Siri to move a meeting, send a text, or add a reminder are pretty small. Someone dictating text into a productivity app like Pages or Quickoffice or even into an internal line of business app is much more likely to mention some sensitive information," it said.
"Beyond data reaching Apple’s servers, the question is one of data retention. Apple’s terms do indicate that the company may retain some Siri queries as a crowd-sourcing mechanism but will anonymize them if it does," it added. — TJD, GMA News