Siri remembers for up to 2 Years
Courtesy Jacqui Cheng, Ars Technica
Apple probably still has this query of mine from 2011 saved somewhere in the cloud.
Remember that time when you asked Siri about the nearest place to find hookers? Or perhaps the time you wanted to know where to find the best burritos at 3am? Whatever you’ve been asking Siri since its launch in late 2011 is likely still on record with Apple, as revealed by a report by our friends at Wired on Friday. Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller told Wired that Apple stores Siri queries on its servers for "up to two years," though the company says it makes efforts to anonymize the data.
"Apple may keep anonymized Siri data for up to two years," Muller said. "Our customers’ privacy is very important to us."
Why does Apple have your Siri queries on record in the first place? Remember, Siri doesn’t just operate locally on your iPhone or iPad—when you ask it a question, your voice query is sent to Apple’s servers for processing before the answer—a Google search, an answer from Wolfram alpha, a Yelp result, etc.—is sent back. That’s why an Internet connection is required in order to use Siri; if you have no Wi-Fi or cellular signal, you can’t use Siri to perform any actions.
According to Wired, Apple generates "random numbers to represent the user and it associates the voice files with that number" when your Siri data is sent to the server. This string of numbers isn’t associated with your Apple ID or e-mail, but it does represent your device when Apple is processing the query. "Once the voice recording is six months old, Apple ‘disassociates’ your user number from the clip, deleting the number from the voice file. But it keeps these disassociated files for up to 18 more months for testing and product improvement purposes," Wired wrote.
Many have been aware of this since Siri first came out thanks to the Internet connection requirement, but Apple’s acknowledgment that it keeps the data is a new reminder about the potential privacy risks. After all, our last poll on whether Ars readers would use Siri on OS X showed that 52 percent would at least give it a shot—people tend to conduct even more sensitive business on their computers than their mobile devices, so the data retention aspect is an important one to keep in mind.
Muller pointed out, however, that the identifiers are deleted immediately—"along with any associated data"—when a user turns Siri off on his or her device. (You can do this by going to Settings > General > Siri on a supported iOS device.)