IBM bans Siri – and probably for good reason

IBM bans Siri over security concerns, according to a new report. Behind IBM ban: Siri queries are stored in unknown place and manner.

Reuters
A user accesses Siri on his Apple iPhone 4S.

Siri: Beloved by Zooey Deschanel and John Malkovich. Not so beloved by IBM

In an interview with MIT's Technology Review, IBM CIO Jeanette Horan revealed that Siri, Apple's voice-activated personal assistant app, is banned on IBM-issued iPhones. The reason IBM bans Siri? The company has no control over where or how the spoken queries are stored. "We're just extraordinarily conservative," Horan told a reporter with the Technology Review. "It's the nature of our business."

Also banned, according to the Review: iCloud, Apple's file-storage system. IBM employees, the Technology Review reports, "use an IBM-hosted version called MyMobileHub." 

The Siri brouhaha has received a good deal of buzz this week, although as Ars Technica staffer Jacqui Cheng notes, the move by IBM is not particularly shocking. "Apple doesn't make it clear whether it stores that data," she writes, "for how long, or who has access to it" – a bright red flag for any organization concerned about maintaining control over trade secrets. In fact, Cheng continues, what is truly surprising is that the ban is not more widespread. 

"It appears that not many companies have joined IBM in forbidding the use of Siri for security purposes," she writes. "I asked on Twitter whether anyone else's companies have a similar policy, and received extremely few responses saying yes. The only people—so far—who have acknowledged any kind of Siri policy were government workers and some school employees. Most said their employers had not yet added Siri to their list of forbidden technologies."

It's worth noting here that with the rise of "bring your own device" policies – BYOD, for short – we'll likely see a whole lot more of this kind of kerfuffle. 

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