Apple's new HomePod sees the company joining the home concierge business, expanding the footprint of Siri from traditional computing devices into a home appliance. But is that a good thing? Is Siri really reliable enough for your home.
In Apple's press release, that hit my inbox this morning, the company said
Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of Apple hardware, software and services. With HomePod, only after “Hey Siri” is recognised locally on the device will any information be sent to Apple servers, encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.
On face value, that all sounds reasonable. Siri won't collect any of your requests and pump them up to Apple's big virtual brain unless you invoke Apple's version of "abracadabra" and say "Hey Siri". But here's the thing, all of my Siri-enabled products react to phrases other than "Hey Siri". I can be driving and chatting and my Apple Watch will buzz, telling me Siri couldn't recognise what I was saying. Other times, my iPhone does the same.
If we can't trust how the devices react to random audio that may or may not sound anything like Hey Siri, then how can we stop Apple from collecting random bits of audio. Even data that it can't use is personal data that is being collected without permission because the permission-seeking tool, "Hey Siri" malfunctions.
I might be paranoid but I'm not sure the world really needs the ilk of Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomePod listening in to everything just in case it hears the right magic word. And, while their intentions may be noble, I'm not particularly trusting of these devices yet. Although there haven't been any major breaches yet, I'm certain there are bad guys trying to exploit them and there are hackable flaws that haven't yet been revealed.
There have been cases of microphone-enabled devices capturing data and not handling it securely, such as last year's CloudPets fiasco. I'm confident that Apple and the others are doing things better than the CloudPets mob but that doesn't mean they are infallible.
Who's got one of these home assistants? Do you trust them? Or are you limiting what they can do somehow?