"What can I help you with?" IBM employees cannot hear that familiar soothing voice of Siri. Why? IBM recently imposed a ban on the usage of Siri, DropBox and iCloud as a way to protect the company's intellectual property, among other things.
Does Siri Pose a Threat?
via Flickr by topgold
It may not seem that Siri, Apple's voice-activated digital assistant, could pose a threat to any trade secrets or insider information. However, it should be noted that according to Apple's iPhone Software License Agreement:
"When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text."
In addition, using Siri will collect information from an iPhone such as contacts in the address book and other user data, all of which is sent to Apple servers.
Protecting Intellectual Property
via Flickr by .Bala
What does this actually mean to IBM? Well, simply put it is possible that when Siri is used and the queries are sent to Apple, IBM no longer has control or oversight over information that may be sensitive to IBM's business model. According to IBM's CIO Jeanette Horan, "We're just extraordinarily conservative. It's the nature of our business." Any business such as IBM wants to protect their investment and intellectual property and this is just one way of ensuring that security.
Apple has not come out with any sort of statement explaining just what type of data is stored on its servers, nor has it given any indication of how long that information will remain on those servers.
Banning Access and Usage of Other Outside Servers
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The same reasoning applies to the ban on using DropBox and iCloud--sensitive information could be appearing on servers outside of IBM's purview, thus creating a security issue. IBM does not want any proprietary documents or information residing on external servers.
Interestingly, the ACLU posted a warning about Siri's technology in March of 2012 due to this data collection by Apple servers. Apple's response is to explain that it uses this data to allow the Siri database to "get smarter", and grow the services vocabulary, among other things.
Regardless, it does seem to make sense that companies such as IBM would impose such a ban to protect themselves.
IBM Places Additional Security on Phones
via Flickr by dailylifeofmojo
Additionally, IBM has implemented a way to remotely and completely wipe an employee's phone memory should the phone be lost or stolen. This information will also be wiped from the phone when an employee leaves the company through firing, layoff or retirement.
Now it would seem that IBM is basically cutting off its nose to spite its face; however, the company has its own IBM-hosted cloud hosting service called MyMobileHub, which effectively and efficiently replaces other cloud-based services. IBM also has cloud-based service called IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+ that lets users store information on IBM servers.
While many of us may take Siri for granted, IBM has taken steps to protect itself from possible breaches of security, and it may well be in its best interests.
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