As Apple takes the Siri ‘grading’ process in-house over privacy concerns, the Cupertino, California-based company has reportedly laid off 300 contractors in Cork, Ireland. Apple had earlier apologised over the privacy mishaps surrounding Siri and announced that it will no longer retail the Siri interactions and the participation in the grading process will be opt-in for the Apple users. In the same announcement, the company had revealed that Apple employees will now listen to Siri recording samples, not outside contractors.
“More contractors throughout Europe may have been let go”, said the report.
“The staff had been on paid leave since 2 August, the day Apple announced its decision to suspend the programme, referred to as “grading”, as it conducted “a thorough review”, The Guardian writes.
“We’ve all been laid off after the scandal, with no protection against this. More than 300 at once just in Cork, with no redundancy, just one week’s notice,” one former contractor who asked to remain anonymous told the publication.
An earlier report in Irish Examiner said that contractors in the city of Cork listened to over 1,000 Siri recordings per shift before Apple suspended the programme last month.
They regularly heard drug deals, sensitive business deals, and even recordings of people having sex, picked up by Apple’s digital assistant.
The contractors had the job of listening to and grading recordings by Apple’s virtual assistant Siri. The employee said that the details of each Siri user were kept anonymous.
“They (the recordings) were about a few seconds long, occasionally we would hear personal data or snippets of conversations but mostly it would be Siri commands,” the employee was quoted as saying.
The details were revealed after a whistleblower last month told The Guardian that Apple contractors worldwide regularly heard users’ conversations.
Apple users had no prior knowledge that their Siri recordings were being listened to.
After details of the practice came to light, Apple suspended transcription and grading work on Siri recordings last month.
“Apple is committed to customer privacy and made the decision to suspend Siri grading while we conduct a thorough review of our processes.
“We’re working closely with our partners as we do this to ensure the best possible outcome for our suppliers, their employees and our customers around the world,” a spokesperson for Apple was quoted as saying by the Irish Examiner.