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Mac Siri, Dictation, and Speakable Items privacy

Having recently upgraded my OS to High Sierra, I now have the Ask Siri application. When one asks Siri a question, or gives Siri an instruction, the request is sent via the Internet to Apple.

When you use Ask Siri and non-Enhanced Dictation the things you say and dictate will be recorded and sent to Apple to process your requests. Your device will also send Apple other information, such as your name and nickname; the names, nicknames, and relationship with you (e.g., “my dad”) of your contacts, music you enjoy, the names of your photo albums, the names of Apps installed on your device (collectively, your “User Data”). All of this data is used to help Ask Siri and Dictation on your Mac understand you better and recognize what you say. It is not linked to other data that Apple may have from your use of other Apple services.

Source: System Preferences - Siri - Siri suggestions and privacy - About Siri and privacy

This is why I choose not to use Ask Siri. I want to protect my privacy, and Apple's vague privacy policy is not good enough for me.

You may choose to turn off Ask Siri or Dictation at any time. To turn off Ask Siri, open System Preferences on your Mac, click Siri, and uncheck the “Enable Ask Siri” box. To turn off Dictation, open System Preferences, click Keyboard, click Dictation, and click the Dictation “Off” radio button.  If you turn off both Ask Siri and Dictation, Apple will delete your User Data, as well as your recent voice input data. Older voice input data that has been disassociated from you may be retained for a period of time to generally improve Ask Siri, Dictation and dictation functionality in other Apple products and services. This voice input data may include audio files and transcripts of what you said, related diagnostic data, such as hardware and operating system specifications and performance statistics, and the approximate location of your device at the time the request was made.

Source: System Preferences - Siri - Siri suggestions and privacy - About Siri and privacy

My old iBook G4 has an application that once came with every Mac computer. It is called Speakable Items, and it is similar to Siri except that Speakable Items does not need an Internet connection to work. Meaning it does not record anything, or send anything to Apple. It does not need to. It is completely private. Speakable Items is now called Dictation, but one must select "Enhanced Dictation" to prevent voice commands being sent to Apple. Enhanced Dictation also does not respond to voice commands with a computer voice like Speakable Items and Siri does. It only makes a annoying confirmation sound to each command that cannot be changed. Now there is Siri that is very easy and inviting to use that collects personal data of its users and sends it to Apple. Apple's invasion of my privacy is moving me more and more towards leaving Apple products.

Siri can be set to respond to typing instead of using voice control. What is typed is also sent to Apple. (System Preferences - Accessibility - Siri - Enable Type to Siri)

(c) Trevor Dailey


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