IBM bans use of Siri on iPhones


IBM has banned its employees from using Apple's personal voice assistant Siri, amid fears confidential information could unwittingly be passed onto its technology rival.

Paragraph 4(c) of Apple's iOS Software License agreement outlines the information which the iPhone-maker collects when the voice assistant feature is used.

The main problem for IBM is likely to be the fact Apple records information from any emails and notes that have been dictated.

"When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text and, for Siri, to also process your requests," the agreement notes.

"By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple's and its subsidiaries' and agents' transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input and User Data, to provide and improve Siri, Dictation, and other Apple products and services."

Siri debuted in the iPhone 4S, allowing users to initiate various tasks using their voice. It is possible to ask questions, which will be answered by Wolfram Alpha, get stock information and set reminders.

However, the main problem for IBM is likely to be the fact Apple records information from any emails and notes that have been dictated. These are likely to carry sensitive information about Big Blue's products and services.

Jeanette Horan, chief information officer at IBM has expressed concern any information given to Siri could then be accessed by Apple and has issued a blanket ban of the service.

"We're just extraordinarily conservative. It's the nature of our business," Horan told MIT's Technology Review.

Although IBM is capable of blocking Siri on internal Wi-Fi networks and can switch off the service before deploying an iPhone to employees, it is hard to enforce the ban. Siri works over 3G networks, so employees could easy circumvent the ban although they are unlikely to do so if it means compromising corporate data.

Whilst IBM has stopped short of banning the iPhone 4S, the decision to limit the use of Siri is still a major step, and is likely to lead other high-profile technology companies to consider their position.

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.