IBM bans Siri over information leak concerns

The Right Click

Samuel L. Jackson loves Siri, and Zooey Deschanel is quite the fan herself. But the brass at IBM aren't exactly singing the praises of Apple's voice-activated personal assistant.

IBM CIO Jeanette Horan recently revealed the company has banned all employees from using Siri on company-issued iPhones.

"Siri has had her visitor badge revoked at IBM," writes Michelle Maltais in the L.A. Times. "Apparently she can't keep quiet about what she hears."

According to the Times, voice-recognition services such as Siri will transmit what they hear to a database. This is an effort to improve the service by making it smarter, growing its vocabulary and knowledge of different accents. But this kind of documentation, however benign or innocent in nature, has become a cause for concern at IBM.

"We're just extraordinarily conservative," revealed Horan in a Christian Science Monitor piece. "It's the nature of our business."

Siri's banishment has generated quite the buzz online, but Jacqui Cheng from Ars Technica isn't particularly shocked by IBM's decision.

"Apple doesn't make it clear whether it stores that data, for how long, or who has access to it," she explains, "a bright red flag for any organization concerned about maintaining control over trade secrets."

The fact that not many companies have joined IBM in banning Siri for security purposes is what Cheng finds truly surprising.

"I asked on Twitter whether anyone else's companies have a similar policy, and received extremely few responses saying yes," she writes. "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."

But IBM's security worries go much further than Siri. The company has also banned the use of cloud storage systems such as Dropbox and the iCloud, according to the Cloud Computing Journal.

Security issues such as these weren't much of a threat before the emergence of the smartphone, but the ever popular bring-your-own-device (BYOD) office initiative has spawned a new set of worries.

"For decades, corporate information technology departments held the keys to mobile communication," explains Maltais. "They portioned out the devices that they configured with approved software and, to that end, controlled what got in and out of the company.

"But now there's a bit of a potluck approach to communications, with everyone from the CEO down bringing in their own device whether smartphone or tablet."

(Screengrab the Sydney Morning Herald)