Siri goes silent at IBM as Big Blue bans Apple’s cloud powered, voice controlled personal assistant technology on iPhones that access its network. The worry is that Siri is spilling IBM’s secrets onto Apple’s cloud.
The ban is a textbook case of the unintended consequences of the consumerization of IT. Mobile devices like the iPhone have given rise to the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend that has businesses scrambling to securely incorporate smartphones and tablets into their corporate network environments.
Not only is BYOD a IT management and security challenge, it can turn some of a device’s most compelling convenience and productivity-enhancing features into unwelcome guests. That’s exactly what happened to Siri.
Siri’s Business Casual Problem
Last October, Apple debuted the iPhone 4S. With little apart from a spec bump and expanded carrier support to distinguish it from its predecessor, Siri became the undisputed standout new feature. And while limited, Siri’s repertoire gave the industry a glimpse of how Apple’s future devices could boost personal productivity.
Siri can compose emails, take notes, read text messages and schedule appointments — capabilities that if used right can help employees multitask more efficiently and squeeze few precious extra minutes out of the workday. Except, of course, if you work for IBM.
In fairness, Siri isn’t the only cloud-based app that IBM restricts. Concerned that company data may make its way onto unsanctioned, consumer-grade cloud services, Big Blue prohibits other apps like DropBox, according to an MIT Technology Review report.
Siri’s banishment takes on an added, more personal dimension.
Since Siri leverage the cloud to process commands and convert speech to text, the fear is that Apple’s servers are storing data that might give unusually accurate insights into the inner workings of a company. That Apple could be sitting on a treasure trove of sensitive business-related information is enough to give a technology and intellectual property powerhouse like IBM some pause.
“We’re just extraordinarily conservative,” said IBM chief information officer Jeanette Horan to MIT Technology Review. “It’s the nature of our business.”
Compounding the problem is that Apple’s software license agreement lacks the enterprise-grade data security assurances businesses expect from cloud services providers. What’s more, it stirs up data ownership and privacy concerns, says this eWeek article. According to Apple, Siri collects and transmits user data such as contact names in addition to other information to help Siri perform its job better.