Is Siri Always Listening To My Conversations?

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Everybody knows about Apple’s strong push for privacy. While other tech giants, such as Facebook and Google, have been mired in privacy scandals (since collecting more private data leads to higher advertising profits), Apple has been vocally opposed to any privacy violations and, in fact, supported its stance with a wide range of features across its products. 

Starting Safari 13.1, for example, users have the option to “Prevent cross-site tracking,” which can be enabled in Preferences ➙ Privacy. Apple Pay introduced a completely new and safe way to shop without ever revealing your real credit card number. And iMessage is one of the very few messengers with end-to-end encryption enabled by default. 

prevent tracking Safari Mac Apple

All this brings us to Apple Siri — a voice assistant embedded in iPhones, Macs, Apple TVs, Apple Watches, HomePods, and more. While initially claiming that iPhone Siri is just as privacy-oriented as the rest of Apple’s ecosystem, some recent whistleblowing reports have shown otherwise. Now, you might wonder, “Is my iPhone listening to me?”

How Does Siri Work On Apple Devices? 

Just as most other voice assistants, Siri is essentially always on, through your HomePod or iPhone microphone, listening for you to say “Hey Siri” so it can get activated. According to Apple privacy policy, although Siri is listening, it doesn’t remember anything you say before it’s activated by its voice command. Only then it sends your data to Apple servers for voice recognition. 

So does your iPhone listen to you? Yes. But things get even muddier beyond that point. To ensure you get the most appropriate response, Apple doesn’t completely anonymize your data, leaving in things like location. Then Apple could keep your recording for up to six months, after which it could be stripped of any personal identifier and kept for two additional years. Does it stop there? No. Some small selection of recordings could be stored for longer than two years to assist the ongoing improvements. 

Practically, such handling of information doesn’t sound too bad compared to other companies, if only in 2019 a whistleblower wouldn’t announce that Apple contractors had been listening to private Siri conversations to ensure the quality of provided answers. 

Apple responded quickly by shutting down the program and releasing an option to prevent the recordings from being inspected. So now you can learn how to stop your phone from listening to you, turn off Apple Siri completely, and delete Siri’s history from your devices. 

How to stop my phone from listening to me

It’s completely reasonable that most of us wouldn’t want iPhone Siri to listen to our conversations throughout the day. However, we would like to access the Siri functionality when we need it. And there’s a way to do exactly that. 

On Mac: 

  1. Go to System Preferences ➙ Siri

  2. Uncheck Enable Ask Siri

disable Siri Mac

You’d still get Siri suggestions when searching in Spotlight. 

On iPhone or iPad:

  1. Go to Settings ➙ Siri & Search

  2. Toggle off Listen for “Hey Siri” 

  3. Enable Press Side Button for Siri, so you can still use it but stay in full control 

On Apple Watch: 

  1. Tap Siri in the menu

  2. Toggle off Listen for “Hey Siri” 

  3. Toggle off Raise to Speak

  4. Enable Press Digital Crown

For HomePod, it’s best to use your iPhone’s Home app: 

  1. Open the Home app

  2. Tap and hold the HomePod icon

  3. Tap the settings icon

  4. Toggle off Listen for “Hey Siri” 

  5. Optionally enable Touch and Hold for Siri as well as Light When Using Siri

Luckily, Apple TV only records your voice when you press the Siri button on the remote, so your privacy should be safe there. 

You might again wonder, “Is my phone listening to my conversations now?” And if you turned off the Listen for “Hey Siri” feature, the answer is no — but you still have the option to activate Siri manually anytime. 

How to turn Siri off completely

If we try to be absolutely objective, Siri is not as good of a voice assistant as the one from Google or Amazon. So you might even decide to not ever risk leaking any of your private conversations by turning Siri off completely. Luckily, that’s fairly easy to do. 

On Mac, turning off Siri is exactly the same as in the step above: 

  1. Go to System Preferences ➙ Siri

  2. Uncheck Enable Ask Siri

On iPhone or iPad, disabling Siri will also turn off the dictation feature in iMessage: 

  1. Go to Settings ➙ Siri & Search

  2. Toggle off all options for Siri

  3. Tap Stop Using Siri in the popup screen. If you have a HomePod, it’ll stop recognizing your voice as well. 

On Apple Watch: 

  1. Open Siri from the menu

  2. Toggle off all options for Siri

  3. Tap Turn Off Siri

For HomePod:

  1. Open the Home app on iPhone

  2. Tap and hold the HomePod icon

  3. Tap the settings icon

  4. Toggle off all options for Siri

On Apple TV: 

  1. Go to Settings ➙ General

  2. Click on Siri History

  3. Select Delete Siri & Dictation History

How to delete Siri history from Apple servers

Even when you turn off Siri iPhone microphone, Apple does already have a rich log of your previous interactions, according to Apple privacy policy discussed above. At least now you have the chance to delete it too. 

On Mac: 

  1. Navigate to System Preferences ➙ Siri

  2. Click Delete Siri & Dictation History

  3. Confirm Delete

delete Siri history Mac

On iPhone or iPad:

  1. Go to Settings ➙ Siri & Search

  2. Tap Siri & Dictation History

  3. Delete Siri & Dictation History

On Apple Watch:

  1. Tap on the Siri option in the menu

  2. Select Siri & Dictation History

  3. Delete Siri & Dictation History

For HomePod:

  1. Navigate to the Home app on your iPhone

  2. Tap and hold the HomePod icon

  3. Tap the settings icon

  4. Select Siri History

  5. Select Delete Siri History

On Apple TV: 

  1. Navigate to Settings ➙ General

  2. Click on Siri History

  3. Select Delete Siri & Dictation History

Finally, now the answer to “is my phone listening to me” is a definite no. Moreover, no Apple servers will even have the data of your conversations. But does that make your Apple devices secure and private overall? You might want to use a few more apps for that. 

How to protect your Mac from malware

You might’ve heard that Macs don’t have viruses. But that’s only half true. While Macs use a sandboxed environment that prevents the root to be accessed by any software without your consent, it’s still possible to install a malicious script or .dmg file that could do a lot of damage. To make sure your Mac as a whole is not leaking any information, you need a powerful and up-to-date scanner. 

CleanMyMac X is the world’s leading optimization software for Macs. In just a few seconds, it’s able to scan your whole system and find whether it’s been affected by malware, overloaded with junk files, or even in need of going through some performance scripts. 

To launch CleanMyMac’s malware detector: 

  1. Open the app

  2. Navigate to Malware Removal under Protection

  3. Click Scan

  4. Remove if anything is found

malware protection CleanMyMac X

How to browse the internet privately

Lots of people are surprised that browsing the internet at a local cafe can lead to any sort of trouble. But it’s true. When you’re on public WiFi, anyone can see what your Mac is sending and receiving, and possibly intercept those messages. Even when you’re at home, your ISP (internet service provider) might be logging your activity and then selling it to marketing firms. To prevent all that you need a high-quality VPN (virtual private network) client. 

Shimo is one of the most versatile VPN clients around. It doesn’t lock you into any specific protocol, so you can use OpenVPN, SSH, Cisco SSL, and many others. What’s more, you can assign specific trigger conditions to activate Shimo — when you connect to the public WiFi at your local cafe, for example. Now, no one will be able to spy on your traffic. 

Shimo VPN client Mac

How to send private and secure emails

All of us are sending dozens, if not hundreds, of emails every day. But very few of us think about their security and who is able to read them once we press Send. 

Canary Mail is a feature-packed and privacy-oriented email client for your Mac. Not only does it present options for automatic and manual encryption, it offers plenty of power features for delegating, follow-ups, unsubscribing, templating, and more. Finally, a powerful email client with privacy baked in! 

Canary Mail email client Mac secure

Now when you know how to stop your phone from listening to you by turning off Apple Siri from all your devices, you can really feel the freedom. Add to that malware protection from CleanMyMac X, secure browsing from Shimo, and private emails from Canary Mail, and your setup is quickly going to be as robust as it can be. 

Best of all, CleanMyMac X, Shimo, and Canary Mail are available to you absolutely free for seven days via Setapp, a platform with more than 170 useful Mac apps and utilities that help you become more effective and get ahead. Try them all at no cost today and see for yourself.

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