SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON • Apple told United States lawmakers on Tuesday that its iPhones do not listen to users without their consent and do not allow third-party apps to do so either, after they asked the company if its devices were invading users' privacy.
Representatives Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta wrote to Apple's chief executive Tim Cook and Alphabet chief executive Larry Page last month, citing concerns about reports that smartphones could "collect 'non-triggered' audio data from users' conversations near a smartphone in order to hear a 'trigger' phrase, such as 'Okay Google' or 'Hey Siri'".
In a letter to Mr Walden, Apple said iPhones do not record audio while listening for Siri wake-up commands and Siri does not share spoken words. Apple said it requires users to approve microphone access and apps must display a signal that they are listening.
The letters, in which lawmakers cited reports suggesting third-party applications had access to and used "non-triggered" data without users' knowledge, followed congressional hearings in April into Facebook's privacy practices, which included testimony by its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
Apple wrote that it had removed apps from its App Store over privacy violations, but declined to say whether it had ever banned a developer. It also said it was up to developers to notify users when an app was removed for privacy reasons.
"Apple does not and cannot monitor what developers do with the customer data they have collected, or prevent the onward transfer of that data, nor do we have the ability to ensure a developer's compliance with its own privacy policies or local law," Apple wrote.