Apple execs respond to Siri and privacy

The theory is that Siri can’t provide as much of a personal experience for its users because privacy is so important to Apple. Not so, says Apple:

“I think it is a false narrative,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s VP of product marketing. “It’s true that we like to keep the data as optimized as possible, that’s certainly something that I think a lot of users have come to expect, and they know that we’re treating their privacy maybe different than some others are.”

Joswiak argues that Siri can be every bit as helpful as other assistants without accumulating a lot of personal user data in the cloud, as companies like Facebook and Google are accustomed to doing. “We’re able to deliver a very personalized experience . . . without treating you as a product that keeps your information and sells it to the highest bidder. That’s just not the way we operate.”


  • Robert.Walter

    Our family is fully committed to Apple, and we love our Apple products. We are also happy that Apple doesn’t see us as their product to monetise; this is a definite competitive advantage that makes also this portion of the Apple experience/infrastructure a premium component.

    We value PRIVACY over Functionality (I have capitalised these as we prioritise them.)

    But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that we all think (without having benchmarked the competition) that Siri is a bit stupid and gets a lot wrong. We also think that the Deep Learning AI statements that Apple makes once or twice a year, don’t seem to reflect our real world experience, i.e. we don’t see where any of this has markedly improved the experience, and sometimes feels like Apple is just trying to keep those customers that are on the fence warm until the improvements can be delivered.

    There are so many unattended things in much of the Apple default apps that should have been improved long ago. For instance: – why can’t i type a ZIP in Contacts, and see contacts populate both town and state info, or vice versa? This is very static info that would not need many personnel to keep current; – why when I check “company” doesn’t the default settings for phone, email, etc. change from “home”? – why hasn’t a task force worked to better harmonise iOS Settings and macOS System Preference panels (in as much as possible?) The Venn overlap is pretty great for quite a number of functions but not only are they inconsistent in icons, they don’t even have the same names, i.e. “Text Replacement” in iOS and “Text” in macOS.

    The fact that these things were not solved years ago shows a lack of focus on these details of the user interface and no seeming commitment to incrementally improve the UI. In our experience, Siri suffers from the same lack of noticeable improvement.

    Sending Joz out to bad-mouth partners that they dumped like two years ago seems rather tin-eared of Apple. (When did Apple publicly bad-mouth somebody rather than take responsibility and show a commitment to fixing a problem? This departure from the “don’t complain, don’t explain, just fix it” approach seems pretty non Apple.

  • lkalliance

    This feels pedantic and I don’t think it tarnishes Mr. Joswiak’s point that much, but as I understand it Facebook and Google do not sell your personal information to third parties. They do utilize that data, and sell to third parties the service of Google/FB using that data on their behalf. On the spectrum of bad behavior, what they are actually doing isn’t all the way on the “bad” side.

    What I object to isn’t Google and Facebook using my personal info, it’s that my personal info is being collected at all. Any centralized store of personal data is a privacy threat.

    • StruckPaper

      Perhaps not directly. But the fact that a Gmail exchange with a friend leads immediately to an ad from Nike is indirect selling of my personal info.

      • lkalliance

        Correct, they are selling ad placement as a service to their customers, and they use the personal information they have about you as a tool to perform that service. Their customer doesn’t receive your personal information, so it doesn’t go beyond the company that collected it. I guess it’s up to each of us to come to our own conclusion of how bad that is.

  • StruckPaper

    It may be possible for Siri to be as effective and useful without compromising personal privacy. Right now, it just is NOT. Likewise, Apple Maps is not as good as Google Maps. That’s the real narrative.

    • Agreed. Siri is pretty bad, even without comparing it to competitors. Admirable goals, I look forward to ongoing progress. I feel like Siri is something that they won’t sideline (like Apple TV or some other products have been at times).

  • It’s absolutely true that respecting privacy is a modifier on the difficulty of anything they do. But I could do with less assurances that they can handle it anyway, and more actual shipping and updating of products.

    Oh, and Siri’s new voice sucks. The male voice keeps telling me to make “rye” turns.