Thursday, May 24, 2012

Work for IBM? No Siri for you

Many companies have instituted a "bring your own device" (BYOD) policy, with employees using their own smartphones for work. IBM has, as well, but if you bring your iPhone 4S, don't expect to use Siri, because IBM has a serious aversion to the fact that Siri sends queries and requests back to the "Mother Ship."

As you should know, whether you are IBM or not, is that Siri sents all its data back to a huge data center in Maiden, North Carolina. Naturally, that data center has been the brunt of jokes from Siri users, as when it goes down, Siri goes down.

Worse for a large corporation like IBM, none of what really goes on in that data center has ever been publicized by Apple. You wouldn't expect it to be, though.

Speaking to MIT's Technology Review, IBM CIO Jeanette Horan said that her company has banned Siri because “The company worries that the spoken queries might be stored somewhere.”

And well they might. Apple’s iPhone Software License Agreement says the following:

“When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text. [...]

“By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and other Apple products and services.”

Those who remember the FUBAR around the hidden location tracking file found in iOS last year and how it created an incredible furball that reached South Park-ish proportions when the "Humancentipad" episode lampooned Terms of Service and how no one reads them.

Things like this are precisely what people never notice in their ToS. Naturally, Siri has access to your contacts as well as other unspecified data, some of which may be sensitive information to IBM.

Of course, Siri is just the tip of the iceberg of things that might prove eye-opening for those who haven't thought about it. Even something as mundane-sounding like GPS could violate an NDA if it turns out that Company X was visiting Company Y and the X and Y unveil a hitherto undisclosed partnership.

That's the view of things from the corporate side of things. The furball over the Apple hidden file and numerous other dust-ups show that privacy is becoming hard to come by.

Google once said that "complete privacy no longer exists," when responding to a lawsuit over its Google Maps service. Certainly, these examples give one pause.

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