Edward Wrenbeck on Siri and the Value of Privacy

Posted by Administrator – May 23, 2012

Edward Wrenbeck, Vectorform’s Director of Emerging Technology, was recently tapped for insights on Siri’s privacy models. It’s made a huge impression on the web today as IBM banned Siri use on campus for fear of what employee transcripts might reveal.

Privacy was always a big concern for Siri’s developers, says Edward Wrenbeck, the lead developer of the original Siri iPhone app, which was eventually acquired by Apple. And for corporate users, there are even more potential pitfalls. “Just having it known that you’re at a certain customer’s location might be in violation of a non-disclosure agreement,” he says.

But he agrees that many of the issues raised by Apple’s Siri data handling are similar to those that other internet companies face. “I really don’t think it’s something to worry about,” he says. “People are already doing things on these mobile devices. Maybe Siri makes their life a little bit easier, but it’s not exactly opening up a new avenue that wasn’t there before.”

Source: IBM worries iPhone’s Siri has loose lips, CNN

Ed wants to remind readers that to better understand privacy, one needs to understand consumer value.

Today technology news sites and blogs have exploded with news that IBM is not allowing Siri to be used on it’s corporate networks unless Apple is more willing to disclose what it is doing with all of the data from users. Due to my ties with Siri in the past I’ve been frequently asked to comment on this news today.

The most important question that companies want to know from consumers is “What is the value of your privacy?” Hundreds of millions of people have decided that the value of Facebook is far greater than their desire for privacy. Companies of all sizes have great ideas to improve people’s day to day life, but most of those ideas require the user to give up something. To realize value from these applications, users make a decision to give up a little bit of personal information. (Some examples: Using Siri to dictate email, or gas price app that needs to know where you are, etc)

Siri is similar to other applications already in the App Store. The difference is that Siri just makes it a little bit quicker and easier to accomplish the same goal. This is where IBM has taken the incorrect approach is thinking that the problem can be solved with a technological band-aid rather than through education, policy and tools. An IBMer who wants to dictate an email through Siri is really saying that they are not satisfied with the other choices they have to perform the same task.

Disclosure – I’ve worked for Apple, IBM and Siri so I’m involved with all parties in this discussion.

How data insights create value:

One of the paths the original Siri team chose was to put power into the hands of the user. Siri would still work great if it didn’t know where you lived; but if you didn’t want to tell Siri then just don’t ask a question like “Where is the best Italian restaurant near home?”. The power of Siri isn’t the voice recognition, its the awareness of who you are and what you like.

More about Ed:

Edward Wrenbeck began professionally developing iPhone applications immediately upon release of the toolset by Apple. He has seen unparalleled success in the iTunes App Store. Most notably Ed led the development of the Siri iPhone application, the first App Store application ever acquired by Apple. Apple identified his Siri application as a “Hall of Fame” application as one of the top 50 apps of all time. Ed has also had applications reach the top of the charts in both the Lifestyle and Music categories. Ed’s KCRW Radio application was selected as one of the top 10 apps of 2009 by Wired magazine and was a finalist for a Webby award. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and a who’s who list of technology publications have recognized his efforts.

Prior to his focus on iPhone and iOS applications, Ed had a long and distinguished career in IT consulting, working with a wide variety of iconic Fortune 100 brands in consumer goods, automotive and financial industries. Clients included: Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, MasterCard, Kellogg, and Proctor & Gamble

Ed’s rich experience gives his an edge in leading Vectorform’s teams in identifying and developing remarkable technology offerings. As a futurist who takes action, Ed is responsible for anticipating client needs across multiple industries, identifying and evaluating tools, methods, and frameworks. Since joining Vectorform, Ed has assembled a premier mobile development team working with international brands such as Volkswagen, Microsoft, Raytheon and Kelly Services defining the role of large corporations in the mobile market.

You can read more of Ed’s interviews on Siri privacy concerns around the web here:

Additional Resources:
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