Asking Siri about advice after a murder is not a good idea

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Pedro Bravo is currently on trial in Florida for allegedly kidnapping and strangling a friend in 2012. Whilst the outcome isn’t yet decided (Bravo denies it, and the trial continues), Sky News is reporting on the story for a very different reason: After allegedly committing the crime, Bravo allegedly asked Siri to recommend the best places to hide the body:

“On the same day, he apparently told the Apple iPhone’s digital assistant: “I need to hide my roommate.”

Siri answered: “What kind of place are you looking for?”

It was followed by four options; swamps, reservoirs, metal foundries and dumps.”

Whilst the tragic story is obviously being reported with dog-whistle virality in mind, what should be focused on is what the police detective in the trial said about what data was logged on the Bravo’s iPhone:

“Detective Goeckel also said that the torch on Bravo’s phone was on nine times and used for more than 48 minutes on the same day.

The court heard that the locations recorded for Bravo’s phone do not tally with where he claims he was.”

Assuming that this information was retrieved as described, this means that our iPhones are routinely recording not only our location data but also data on what apps we use and for how long, and presumably our raw voice recordings when we ask Siri stuff. It isn’t clear if the data was retrieved from the phone itself or whether it was sent to Apple, who then provided the data to law enforcement (the Siri voice data would have definitely been sent to Apple, as it is processed into text remotely).

Whilst we already knew this to some extent, and this level of tracking isn’t surprising in the post-Snowden era, it is a stark reminder of how much of our lives is logged by our phones without us knowing – and how easily accessible it is by others.

James O’Malley