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If you’ve ever been surprised by a scarily accurate autocorrect or predictive text, then you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. One Redditor was justifiably freaked out when they came across one such scenario on their own device.
iPhone owner narc1s stated that they were reading an article with an oddly spelled name, written as “Ringgo.” But when the user attempted to type a comment with “Ringo” in the body, their iPhone suspiciously autocorrected the word to “Ringgo.”
The Redditor had never seen the word spelled that way before, and in fact, it was only after the autocorrect that the user even noticed that the name was spelled differently in the article itself.
“That’s a little creepy right,” the Redditor said. “Or am I overreacting?”
Apple protects user privacy. That’s a pretty common reference that we’re used to hearing by now. But because of it, we tend to forget that our data is still being used by Apple’s systems to get to know us.
What’s Going on?
As one Redditor helpfully pointed out, this is all part of Siri’s increasing intelligence. But contrary to what you might expect, Siri’s machine learning capabilities are mostly done locally. This one aspect of Siri personalization is definitely interesting because it’s a little-known feature.
In recent versions of iOS, the software tracks various metrics — such as the messages you receive or the articles you read — to offer you better suggestions. That includes everything from Siri search results to autocorrect and predictive text.
It goes way beyond the articles you read, too. iOS uses machine learning that pulls data from whatever you type into the system, the apps and websites you use, and even things seen on an iPhone’s camera, heard through its microphone, or picked up by its sensors, Fast Company reports.
Siri then uses all of this data to paint a better picture about you so the digital assistant can more accurately accommodate your requests.
Should You Be Freaked out?
In a word, no. Unlike other tech companies that build platforms that are scarily good at knowing about your habits and interests, Apple has a long-standing commitment to protecting its users’ privacy.
So yes, your personal “version” of Siri may know what you’re reading. It may even feed that data into autocorrect. But the vast majority of the data it tracks never makes it out of your device.
While Siri’s contextual suggestions and other personalized aspects of iOS continue to get better with each version, most of that personalization still happens locally on your device.
In the case of autocorrect predictions, the system does track the articles you read. But none of that data is ever stored or even seen by Apple. It all stays on your device.
Even the personalization that does draw upon data from a pool of users is protected. Apple uses differential privacy practices across its systems. One example is that Siri commands are given a random identifier that can’t be linked back to you — so even though Apple may see that command, it never knows who made it.
In addition to all of this, Apple makes it clear that none of your data is ever used for advertising or marketing purposes. That’s the polar opposite of privacy policies at other tech giants, like Google or Facebook.
The end result is that Siri is a bit less capable than platforms like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, but it is a lot more private. In other words, Siri knows some stuff about you. But even Siri’s creators don’t.