Apple Struggles to Reassure Feds: Our iPhones Are Not Spying on People

The Energy and Commerce Committee in Congress sent letters in July to Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, and Larry Page, CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet, asking whether their smartphones listen to their users and collect data. In its response, Apple said that they do not listen to what users say and that third-party apps cannot access the audio data without permission.

Timothy Powderly, Apple's director of federal government affairs, claimed in a letter obtained by CNN, "The iPhone doesn't listen to consumers except to recognize the clear, unambiguous audio trigger 'Hey Siri.’ The customer is not our product, and our business model does not depend on collecting vast amounts of personally identifiable information to enrich targeted profiles marketed to advertisers."

"We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and purposely design our products and services to minimize our collection of customer data," Powderly added.

There’s been no word yet if Google has responded.

The questions were raised by lawmakers in response to rumors that some companies, including Amazon, Facebook, and others collect data from our conversations.

Apple explained that an iPhone will display a visual alert when Siri is listening to a user’s request. Apple also requires third-party apps to display an indicator when they're capturing data using the microphone, and users must first grant access to the app to access the mic. This ostensibly refers to apps that are used to make recordings and use voice search.