Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How to stop Apple from listening to your Siri recordings (9to5mac.com)
109 points by october_sky 83 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

Good luck removing

2019-05-03 Removed allowSiriServerLogging from the Restrictions Payload.

[0] https://developer.apple.com/business/documentation/Configura...

I created my own profile for this and have removed and re-added it just to test. Not sure what you think it's preventing.

Oh I meant good luck removing server side tracking, allowSiriServerLogging key is not valid anymore, so has no effect as far as I can see.

Stopping Apple from listening to Siri, stopping Google from listening to Google Assistant, stopping Amazon from listening to Alexa, stopping Google from collecting data from android devices - these sort of articles and arguments seem flawed right at the title.

Those companies have created those devices to listen to you, and your surrounding, to understand you better and serve you the right product or service or their ads. You can not have both smooth service and complete privacy if the data is restricted, as the system will not get to learn you.

Game theory suggests that I want to turn off my recordings and hope that most of you do not. That way I benefit from the improvements that result from you giving up your privacy, while retaining my own.

A lot of these improvements are based on personalization. A common problem for me would be searching for Django related stuff - Duck Duck Go would return a lot of things based on the film, while Google knew that I was interested in the web framework.

I don't really care about personalization if it comes at the cost of my privacy.

Duck gives me the first link to django project, second to the movie wiki article, then another 4 links to django framework stuff.

DDG gives me : movie, framework, movie (2 links), some song on youtube

But the difference is covered literally by just adding 'python' to your query.

The art of crafting query strings seems to have fallen by the wayside. Almost any query I do involves giving topics or categories first, followed by more qualifiers to nail it down more, usually followed by double-quoting the terms that the search engine seemingly ignores in the query string.

All the code to find like terms and phrases and whatnot is great and not privacy threatening, but I wish the search giants would stop trying to guess my motivations and just present me with the most relevant results based on what I asked for, and not what it thinks I was probably asking for.

Or by adding g!

The point is that the personalization is somewhat useful, and relying on others input to improve search isn't necessarily going to improve things for a particular user.

`django` vs `django python` in search. Specificity makes a big difference in DDG results.

…which is precisely the point the parent comment is making. Google doesn’t need you to be specific because it already knows how to do that for you, using the information they have on you.

Oh weird. My experience isn't like that. In fact, sometimes Google's guessing game turns up the oddest results where DDG works a little more straight-forward. (but I digress)

I do part-time work on a Django app, doing major work only once a year. It's creepy as, but I do find the Google results that are tagged "you've been to this page X times" shamefully useful.

Oddly enough, DDG rather frequently presents me my own postings in otherwise unqualified SERPs 9notmentioning my username/alias or sites).

I'm a fairly prolific. poster and use DDG search heavily. Be the SERP you want to see in the world?

I'd recommend just switching to StartPage. Instead of proxying a Bing/Yahoo search result as DDG does, it uses Google under the hood, which has been giving me much better results even without the personalization.

Game theory suggests that the designers of said services wouldn’t have any incentive to give you that control.

The negative feedback here and elsewhere provides exactly that incentive, which is why less than 24 hours after your comment, they've announced that they are ending the practice entirely.

An interesting effect of that would be that algorithms and result would get tuned more and more towards other users, those who give away their data.

The same as to why drugs or so many other things are tuned towards men (large body of research and easy to grab for tests) vs women (less historical interest, tricky to research, especially anything that can affect the reproductive functions)

I think it's flawed for a different reason: you have no idea if the 'off' switch is actually turning off what you think it is in these proprietary systems (e.g. Apple's 'wifi off' fiasco).

If you do not want Apple/Google/Amazon/whatever listening to you, do not use their services/products.

If I pay $100 for a product to listen to my vocal queries and respond, and you listen to improve the product's ability to respond, fine.

If you use it to track subsonic audio watermarks to detect what advertisements I see on my TV or find out what products and services I'm interested in, screw off.

Every engineer who pushes code to synergize advertisement business with their consumer audio product business should be ashamed of themselves. It's unethical and should be illegal.

I want the products I buy to do what I think they do. Not hide tracking used to improve other products from the business that I don't pay for.

> You can not have both smooth service and complete privacy if the data is restricted, as the system will not get to learn you.

On-device learning is a thing.

On-device learning is a thing.

Indeed. I am increasingly suspecting that the next swing of the pendulum back towards thick clients will be driven not by reliability or performance but by privacy and security.

I'd also like to see Apple move beyond using the AppleTV and HomePod only as proxies for HomeKit, and start using them for on-device learning, backups, etc. "HomeKit Secure Video" suggests things might be moving that way a little. (And use my home computers too!)

I would still gladly pay for iCloud storage if it was mirrored on local storage. Seems ridiculous they got out of the WiFi router market; missed opportunity for this "edge computing".

This is what a local TimeCapsule should’ve been: an Apple Synology type storage and compute device, that would store a backup copy in iCloud encrypted.

Someone let Tim Apple know there’s still time!

Duck Duck Go isn't that much worse than Google for search.Do we really need to be spied upon to get a decent user experience? I doubt it.

DuckDuckGo is much worse than google for search though

This is entirely your opinion, and you don't even explain why. DDG's !bang syntax let's me get where I want to be way faster than a Google search + clicking a result. The lack of user profiling means that I can get less biased results (biased meaning tailored to what Google thinks I want to see, which is NOT always what I want).

Edit: Not to mention, I hate searching for something on a whim and then having ads served to me for the next few months as if that one random search query is a defining feature of me.

Last time someone argued that point I did a short test. From https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19043565

For example, just now, I came across "ED survivor". No idea what "ED" means here (it's eating disorder).

I just put it into DDG and got nothing on the first page that looked like it could be pertinent: A user name "ED survivor" on Instagram posting about vegetarianism, Ed Stafford on Wikipedia, "ED: The Survivor" (a mod for a computer game evidently), Devil Survivor Full HD (a film obviously, no idea what ED means here), a few more in this vein, until the page ends with the TV series Survivor on Wikipedia.

Google: First hit "Template:ED survivor" in Wikipedia (and that page contains the words "eating disorder". Second hit "Eating Disorder Survivors Wall", third hit "Surviving ED" from HealthyPlace (so it's health-related – and the snippet shown on the result page starts with "Eating Disorders recovery is a long road.).

The rest of the results on Google are all similar, all of them(!) clearly tell me what ED means in this context.

DDG gave me crap, none of the results(!) came even close to answering my question.

This is not a singular occurence, just a thing I wanted to know a few minutes ago. I'd love to take DDG's search results, but when not narrowed down to specific origins with bang commands, the results are usually worthless.

Edit: and before people tell me that I should have used quotation marks around my search terms, great, let's try that: Two results with "We would like to show you a description here but the site won't allow us.". From the top three results, one times out, one redirects to a sports betting site, and one to a product in an online apothecary (nothing to do with eating disorder). Then penis extension. Erectile dysfunction, something general about mental disorder, and again two results about penis enlargement.

Google worked great to give you information on eating disorder survivors, but if you were actually after the computer game mod you would have been out of luck (at least on the first page). More people have eating disorders than play whatever game that is, presumably, so you are stuck getting results for whatever the rest of humanity things is more important. Which is great if your query aligns, but not so much if you walk the least trodden paths more than most.

I agree that DDG might not be as useful for finding out what ED survivor might actually mean, but Google didn't list too many options, either, it sounds like. If you hadn't been wanting to know the most popular definition but a more obscure one, Google would have not been useful at all. This is something I run into a lot. Some popular uses for terms means I have to add extraneous search terms just to get around them.

But is "$computer_game_mod survivor" a probable phrase? I would agree for "ed", and I'm sure Google would give a more diverse range of results for that. Erectile dysfunction is a perfectly plausible result there.

But "ED survivor" is with very high probability not about that mod or erectile problems.

Not to speak of obvious spam sites, like DDG presented.


You missed:

> No idea what "ED" means here

If you don't know what ED means, that doesn't help you.

As I said below, Google is not the be all end all of knowledge, you can use !bang commands to use different resources. If this is too inconvenient for you, you are free to give your browsing habits up for a better product.

Obviously, such a test isn't scientific, nor reproducible.

But more importantly, the search term was "ED survivor". If you enter the solution, I'm not surprised the solution comes out again.

You missed my point, which was that I don't mind being more specific in my searches if it means my privacy is respected. DDG doesn't work for you and you don't mind Google having a full profile of your web browsing habits in order to better target you for their advertising business? That's fine, but DDG is not without merit just because it doesn't work out of the box exactly as you expect it to.

EDIT: And as a response to the other comment pointing our that you didn't know what ED was in the first place, Google is not the be all end all of knowledge... type "ED !w" and figure it out based on the listing in Wikipedia. This is an inconvenience that I don't mind, that's my entire point.

> This is entirely your opinion, and you don't even explain why

Theirs, and mine, and matches many other Google users. And thinking the opposite is somehow not your... opinion? FWIW, the world uses Google at large, so a theory that says DDG is not much worse than Google requires stronger evidence than the opposite.

I would have loved to be able to use DDG/StartPage, but having frequently tried alternative search engines, I keep coming back to Google, unfortunately.

This is entirely your opinion, and you don't even explain why.

For me one of the most consistent flaws is that DDG simply doesn't index some forums that Google does.

That's definitely a fair position to take. If the pages aren't index, the differences in search functionality are moot.

If only DDG would support forcing a term to appear ("" doesn't always work), they'd instantly be far better.

I have never had quotes not work. Was there anything specific that you searched for where it didn’t require the term to appear?

I think I've had it happen very recently, but can't remember the term. Here is an older screenshot of them ignoring that I forced "amp" and they searched for "map" anyway: https://i.redd.it/5bttlsl6zen11.png It was like this for months.

At least that is fixed, but as I said, I could swear it happened with another term recently.

Here is a current example: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%22margin-break%22+css

Several results that do not contain the phrase "margin-break"

"Google .. serve you the right product or service"

No way. Google is not a philanthropy club, neither Amazon nor Apple. They do it to serve THEIR own interests, which might coincide with yours, but not necessarily so. If you want examples, think of Google's tech support, or how Google and Facebook sell your personal information to third parties.

While skepticism is very healthy, we should recognize that their interests coincide with ours a lot frequently. Google is very much interested in serving each user the best possible search results, apart from the advertisers that pay them and their own advertisements. That's not ideal for the user, but denying them the information will not affect just the ads.

That said, I use mostly DDG and am satisfied with it. It's a tradeoff.

> You can not have both smooth service and complete privacy if the data is restricted, as the system will not get to learn you.

Sure you can, as long as you control the system. There is nothing preventing us from realizing the old dream of having AIs dedicated to working for us, the users, not some corporation.

It just so happens that the the current favorite business model of big tech is serving us ads, but does this business model serve us? I don't think so.

Unless you personally wrote the code and built the hardware you still have a trust relationship.

Yes, our entire civilization is built on trust relationships. Trust relationships are easier to succeed when the interests of the two parts are aligned, or at least mostly aligned.

The ad business model guarantees that our interests are misaligned. I don't want to depend on intelligent agents that want to sell me things, and I don't think anyone with half a brain would either. The more intelligent they are, the more one should fear being manipulated and spied upon if one those not control them.

The device was probably not created for that purpose aside from alexa/echo. As long as I can deactivate the software in question on those devices, I have not problem with it. But default off is required, and that is why the title can indeed make sense.

FWIW, Siri is default off. When you first start up a new iPhone or Mac, it asks you, "Do you want to enable Siri?" and you can say "Skip" or "Do This Later" (infuriating language when you mean "NO").

Apple usually does take privacy more serious than others. That is much appreciated.

Spot on. I am happy that users are learning about what it takes to improve these services. If they prefer not to have their voice contribute to those improvements, I recommend they turn the services off altogether.

> If they prefer not to have their voice contribute to those improvements, I recommend they turn the services off altogether.

Wait, what??

That's it? On or Off? What if it is "good enough" right now for some people?

In my experience, the class of user that both turns off their contributions to improvements and also remains satisfied simply doesn’t exist.

People will turn off the server-side logging because an article told them to, then they’ll complain that Siri sucks, and the service won’t get better.

Therefore, I recommend that people who don’t want to help improve the services through the logging process simply turn it off altogether. That is the safest way to make sure their utterances are not going someplace they are not comfortable with.

In the current scenario, all server-side logging is on by default and there's no way to turn it off. In fact the devices don't even tell you when or what they're logging, so it can be assumed to be ever-present.

However, if you turn it off and then ask people for their data during specific time periods, (EG can I log your voice commands for the next 24 hours?) then people are aware of what you're doing, there is a limited period where they're giving up their privacy, and it's based on informed consent.

What these companies are actually doing is highly unethical from a scientific perspective. They're using people to train their models without even informing the experimental subjects that their data is being collected. There's no debrief for the subjects so they can understand what was learned.

That would be a fine argument if there was an easy way to just opt-out and not use said services. Hacking your way around services doesn't qualify as easy.

Siri is pretty easy to turn off from Settings: just flip a couple of switches and it won’t show up anymore.

And more granularly speaking, I have "Hey Siri" turned off. I do still use Siri, but I hit the side button to engage. (90% of my requests are "open the door".) Seems like a good balance to me.

Funny to see an article promoting the use of Apple Device Profiles on the front page.

There was just an article last week on the front page describing how installing device profiles is unacceptable: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20514833

Device profiles are the superset. It allows a wide range of features and functions.

Mobile device management uses a subset of what device profiles allow for, along with additional external tooling.

They're similar, but the thread you linked to is about MDM, not device profiles in general.

Deploying a device profile is akin to accepting a self signed certificate. When it's of your own generation, it's probably fine, if someone else has done it, you should question what's happening and whether or not it's right for you to accept it or not.

INSTRUCTIONS—For those who wish to do this on their own without downloading and installing a third-party's profile to their device(s) (and have a Mac):

1. Download Apple Configurator 2 from the Mac App Store.

2. Open the app, plug in your iOS device, and click on it to activate working on it.

3. Command+N to create a new Profile.

4. Under General, fill out the mandatory info (only name is required).

5. Click Restrictions, then click Configure. Un-check the 10th top-level checkbox that says "Allow server-side logging of Siri commands". Take a look at other things you'd like to control.

6. Command+S to save the profile. Close the window.

7. Click on Profiles in left sidebar. Click Add Profiles. Select the profile you just saved. Ensure your device is unlocked, and it will be added to your device.

8. Go into Settings app on your device. There will be an entry at the top that says "Profile Downloaded". Tap into that and select to install the profile.

"curl some rando's plist" still gives me the willies, honestly. And i know it's just XML!

If you go to the github [0] linked in the article, it tells you how to create your own using Apple's Configurator application [1]. In the "restrictions" section, uncheck "Allow server-side logging of Siri commands". You can also preview the raw XML of the config profile on github without downloading the file [2].

[0] https://github.com/jankais3r/Siri-NoLoggingPLS

[1] https://raw.githubusercontent.com/jankais3r/Siri-NoLoggingPL...

[2] https://github.com/jankais3r/Siri-NoLoggingPLS/blob/master/P...

How about a better question -- if you turn off everything Siri in the settings, are there circumstances in which an iPhone will still send audio to their servers?

This to me would be the only reasonable way of stopping Apple from listening in, while still using an iPhone.

So does anyone know if this actually works?

How could we ever check?

Network traffic logs.

Your voice is always sent to Apple to process it since Siri doesn't work locally; what we are wondering is whether that voice recording is permanently stored or destroyed as soon as it's processed.

So… This is just a “please, don’t record what I send you”? How could anyone believe apple will obey this demand?

How can anybody trust anyone to do anything?

They have a good track record of respecting user privacy.

But.... Let's try again... How do we know that?

You don't know it for a fact. You trust them to not do it.

Yes, let's try again, how do you know you can trust anybody to do anything?

Do you hold a gun to their head? Do you trust the courts to uphold written agreements/contracts that dictate the other party's behavior? Do you observe their past behavior and use that to guess future behavior?

In 99% of our daily actions, we use the last option, and right now is no exception.

Not Apple, but I'm pretty happy with the Amazon firestick. It only listens when you press the button on the remote. Seems acceptable if that's all Amazon is logging.

As I understand it, Apple devices don't start sending audio data to Apple until you say "Hey Siri" (which is interpreted on the device). It may not be as explicit as pushing a button, but it seems close.

And most important, you can disable "Hey Siri" trigger on your iPhone/Mac or Apple Watch. If you disabled "Hey Siri" trigger (and left "Siri" on) then you have to long press "Home" button (or button on the right, if you are on iPhone X and later) to start "Siri"

I know, but that prevents CarPlay from working, which I really like...

You can do the same on iPhones by turning off "hey Siri" and configuring Siri to work manually.

This sounds too easy: do not use Siri in the first place?

Does this just disable logging for the device you install it on, or the whole Apple account? What about Siri on Mac, HomePods, etc?

Profiles are only activated on the devices you install it on, iirc.

"Hey Siri, can you stop Apple from listening to my Siri recordings?"

"Hey Siri!… Siri?!"

P.S. If someone out there has an Apple device, I'm interested in knowing what the actual response to this request is.

Siri responded with a web search that resulted in some articles about how to accomplish what you ask about. I think it included this thread. I didn't bother to visit the resulting pages.


Another option is of course to simply not use an iOS device.

Having to download some third-party thing to disable it, really shouldn't be necessary. There should be a simple setting in iOS to turn Siri's listening on or off.

You don't need a some third-party thing, you can create the profile yourself using the Apple Configurator. Agree that this should be an easily accessible system setting like OP suggests.

As a matter of fact it should be "default" and need an actual "opt-in" to allow the server side logging.

It's on by default because it has a very important function for Apple. If it was opt-in, Siri would be a much weaker service.

The configuration to allow listening at all (to start Siri by code phrase) is opt-in during device setup. While I would like to see a checkbox for allowing human review of Siri messages also, at least there is a way to _opt out_ - something most mobile devices simply do not have.

That already exists. There are a class of users who want to use Siri and “turn off logging of server-side Siri commands.” That is what the iOS profile does.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact