If It’s Free – You are Being Sold

The title comes from my first blog post, but an article in Wired from late last week puts pen to paper this statement. Apple is storing all those things you ask Siri for up to two years. They are storing it for a very fair reason – to improve Siri. However, Nicole Ozer, of the American Civil Liberties Union also makes a pretty good point – users should be told. So did you know that Apple was storing your statements? What have you asked Siri lately? And might they even be infringing your copyrighted work?

All the fear mongering aside about what Apple might do with the data, this is something that I think all of us who have worked with mobile developers were probably expecting. Think Google Voice as well and what they are storing and have been storing. What about that handy feature of Google Voice that transcribes your voice mails? Are you using Google Voice as a backup for your work phone, as your work phone? If you are, did you connect the dots on what they were doing? If you work for a company, you might want to check their policies on how they feel about you using their service and possibly putting sensitive data out in someone else’s cloud. IBM banned Siri functionality from it’s internal networks, for instance.

I know asking everyone who uses a service (cloud or otherwise) to peek into the deep dark corners of its functionality and ask questions about the privacy practices is too much to ask. What we should be asking is those developers to minimize surprises to users about what data is being collected.

Why is this important today? Apple has been outed, and we all know about Google Voice, so what’s the big deal? Voice navigation is one of the next coming thing for your phone. While Apple hasn’t made it explicit that they want to pipe Siri as an API that mobile developers can call, I think it is safe to assume that they will. Leaving aside Voice API’s on the mobile phone, what about voice functionality added to your favorite app?

Nuance’s own Nina provides such functionality to mobile developers. Which of your apps have had voice added to it? What are their practices for storing your speech? Is there any disclosure? What have you been asking or telling the service?

Copyright Infringement
Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, but I think the stretch could be made in the absence of specific language in the license agreement that gives up your rights to such works.
Could your own speech be considered a copyrighted work? All a copyright requires is a creative work fixed in a tangible medium. The storage of your voice is a tangible medium, so is it creative? What if you do your best impression of Sean Connery the next time you ask for directions to the pub?

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