Why You May Need to Ban Your Employees from Using Siri

Getty Images

There's been a lot of concern lately over digital security due to problems two major companies have had lately: LinkedIn was recently hacked and now IBM has banned employees from using Siri at work.

But, there are far more of us not working for LinkedIn and IBM there are on their payroll, so it might seem like those issues don't affect you, right?

Well, as it turns out, it might. Small business law blog FindLaw posted Monday an exploration on why employees everywhere might be banned from using Siri: 

"Your employees' address book information, emails, text messages, and Siri-launched searches are being stored by Apple. You have duty to take precautions to keep your trade secrets secure . But Apple could have access to your confidential information and customer information. And your employee could be violating a legal contract. "Just having it known that you're at a certain customer's location might be in violation of a non-disclosure agreement," Edward Wrenbeck, the lead developer of the original Siri iPhone app acquired by Apple, told Wired Enterprise." 

You may be thinking, "Wait, doesn't Siri just answer small-talk questions and tell you the best place to bury a body?" Well, it does do all that, but as enthusiast site Cult of Mac points out: 

"Yes, it can give you the weather, tell you your schedule and rearrange meetings, it can read and send texts, and it can find business or individuals and give you directions. It can also make stabs at delivering additional information thanks to Wolfram Alpha. Still, from a business point of view, that’s a pretty limited bag of tricks. Of course, I have no doubt that Siri will eventually include a [wider] range of additional features… For the time being, however, that means Siri simply has limited business value as a feature and that will probably be the case for a while. That said, some speech related apps like iTranslate Voice and many of the Siri-related jailbreak tweaks show off the potential for Siri in all manner of situations including business use." 

Now, I get the concern, but I think addressing it will be rather unwieldy. Only allow people to use an iPhone 4? Insist Apple create a "business mode" like airplane mode for anyone who works for a company? I'm sure most people didn't even realize Siri was storing such information, even though it does remember your name, but that's probably also the problem here -- iPhone users don't realize what information their phones are storing, so they're unwitting spies.

Frankly, though, Siri isn't all that amazing just yet, so blocking it isn't really that much of a speed bump. But if companies all start to go IBM's route of blocking iCloud and Siri, it sets a precedent that can't easily be reversed. The next move might be Apple's, to implement some sort of functionality to address this concern, since likely any boss who does something might find themself the subject of bitter resistance even if they have the best of intentions.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

Contact Us