The next version of Apple iOS will include an opt-in setting for users to share their iCloud data in order to help the company improve the current software products, such as its virtual assistant, Siri. The iOS 10.3 BETA was released earlier this week.

The forthcoming change by Apple is explained through their ‘iCloud Analytics & Privacy’ statement, and says any user data shared with the brand via this opt-in will undergo “privacy preserving techniques” — continuing its privacy-first approach to stepping up its AI efforts. This news was first issued by Federico Viticci,  Editor-in-Chief of Mac Stories, through Twitter.

 

 

The American tech company has generally fallen behind data-mining rivals, like Google, in developing machine-learning technologies. They have yet to embed into its software and services to offer a more personalized and/or predictive experience. This seems to be due to their user privacy policy – Apple does not suck up users’ personal data in the clear, like its rivials.

The first Apple services to gain AI-powered enhancements via the application of differential privacy techniques were: iMessage, with keyboard data used to power features such as next word and emoji predictions, and also flag up linguistic changes such as rising slang terms or trendy new words; Spotlight Search, with analytics on user data enabling to flag popular deep link searches; and Notes, where the technique has enabled more interactivity, such as underlining info such as dates — powering calendar event creation. These were also the first three services it targeted to be a source of user data to apply its AI algorithms to.

In iOS 10.3, Apple is aiming to expand its access to user data via its cloud storage and back-up service, iCloud. It notes that users can opt-out of sharing their data at any time — a welcome and sensible check, especially as some iCloud users pay for extra storage.

With Siri, Apple is likely hoping that more iCloud data analysis can help it improve voice recognition capabilities — and perhaps enhance the results served up, by improving Siri’s ability to make selections/suggestions based on popular queries.

While Apple was an early mover in the voice assistant space, it’s now very fiercely contested territory as all major tech giants have an offering — and a notable increase for user appetite for voice-driven offerings. It’s clear key data points is the art to improving AI assistants.

iCloud users can sync all sorts of data to Apple’s cloud storage service — from calendar, email, notes, reminders, photos, and contacts, to Safari bookmarks as well as back up messaging content from apps such as WhatsApp. This proposes a very wide range of data and data types that Apple could draw on and try to make Siri (and its other services) a lot smarter.

It has also been confirmed Apple has formally joined a raft of tech firms in signing up to an AI research partnership that aims to help further socially beneficial artificial intelligence, likely by conducting research into areas such as AI ethics — a topic which is attracting increasing attention as autonomous technologies proliferate.

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