Privacy Ain’t What it Used to Be

At Apple’s 2021 Worldwide Developer Conference Tim Cook announced a number of changes to improve privacy. This isn’t new for Apple, they have been touting privacy for a long time. It has always been rumored that it was the lack of data capture that kept Siri behind other assistants. Now Siri will run on device! I do think this is noble and goes beyond just business.

From OS 15 onward, it appears Siri will no longer send audio to the cloud for “processing”.  I put processing in quotes because it has been common to do a lot more than processing the speech data for recognition when data gets sent to the cloud. Statistics can be kept and tracked on what you are saying, how you are saying it, what things you want and even who you are. And I say “it appears Siri will no longer send audio to the cloud” because that’s not exactly what was said. After all Google has had an embedded engine for a long time, and that hasn’t stopped them from collecting data on our voices and what we say. Nevertheless, I do believe Siri has been and will continue to be the most private of the popular voice assistants. Kudos to Apple for protecting our privacy!

Businesses have collected data on customers for a very long time and used this for selling. McDonalds figured the secret to fast food by looking at what people bought and reducing the menu to only those things, thus allowing a larger scale production and speedy delivery. As fast-food chains erupted they deployed research and collected data on colors that make people hungry (to be seen while they are in line for food) and colors to make them feel fuller (when they sit at the table). The list goes on and on with how data sciences have been deployed to increase sales and benefit advertising across every segment of industry.

What has changed in the last decade is the massive quantity of sensors in our lives, we carry them in our pockets and hang them on our walls. We have microphones and cameras everywhere. In 2015 the number of image sensors surpassed the population of people in the world. So now data collection can be taken to a new level, and this is the new challenge for privacy.

Companies that sell advertising or connect people to products have the biggest incentives to use private data to enhance their businesses, so it is not completely surprising that Apple (who makes more money on selling their own products and less money on advertising and selling 3rd party products) would lead in safeguarding private data.

Sensory offers a completely private solution for computer vision and voice recognition because we, like the new Siri, also run on device. Your voice never needs to leave the products for Sensory to recognize. But we see a new opportunity ahead. A new opportunity that has all the privacy advantages of on device recognition with all the processing advantages and model building that can be done in the cloud without capturing private data. More on this in the months ahead!