On June 7, Apple unveiled iOS 15 and updates to its other operating systems at the keynote of its annual developers conference WWDC. One of the interesting new updates was to Siri – ability to process requests locally without requiring a working internet connection at all times. It is made possible by the “Neural Engine” present in Apple chips.
The change is quite stark, as going forward Siri requests will move from the cloud to “on device”. While it allows users to interact with Siri without being connected to the internet, it also massively improves the speed of requests. The speed improvements are real, as the requests do not have to travel through the internet.
Increased Privacy with local requests processing
The other interesting prospect of the new updates to Siri is increased privacy. As the requests made to Siri are to be processed locally using the “Neural Engine”, the chances of data being leaked or being used for any other purposes is reduced drastically. At the moment, Siri requests are processed on Apple’s servers – the cloud.
While Apple likes to emphasize on privacy and it does, at all times, it does not have a completely clean track record. In 2019, it was found that the iPhone maker had hired contractors to listen to recordings of Siri requests. It was also reported that the contractors were able to listen to accidental recordings of people about their personal lives.
By processing all Siri requests locally, such a thing as somebody else listening to recordings is completely ruled out. It is, however, still unclear as to whether all the requests will be processed locally or only a select few.
In 2019, Apple said, “A small portion of Siri requests are analyzed to improve Siri and dictation. User requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID. Siri responses are analyzed in secure facilities and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements,” in response to the report about contractors listening to Siri requests.