The headline from Reuters reads “Apple ups hiring, but faces obstacles to making phones smarter,” with the ensuing article highlighting Apple's recent aggressive push to compete with Google and Microsoft's rapidly improving digital assistants by hiring numerous experts in the field of machine learning. The problem? Apple's positions on privacy appear to be hindering their recruiting efforts:
Some techniques Apple and Google are investing in - such as deep learning, a hot field of machine learning that roughly simulates the human brain so that computers can spot patterns and classify information – require massive amounts of data that typically cannot be crunched on the device alone.
For machine learning experts at Apple, access to data complicates the work at every turn, former employees said. Siri enjoys some of Apple's most liberal privacy policies, holding onto user information for up to six months. Other services, such as Apple Maps, retain information for as little as 15 minutes, the former employee said.
Machine learning experts who want unfettered access to data tend to shy away from jobs at Apple, former employees say.
iOS 9 does make some strides forward with a proactive Siri offering suggested apps, contacts, and timely reminders, but really— suggesting the NYT Now app to me when I first check the phone in the morning seems like the bare minimum a digital assistant should be doing, and at least according to Reuters, it would appear that Apple agrees. Notably not in agreement: Apple's position on user privacy and machine learning algorithms' hunger for more and more user data, data that's best processed in the cloud, data that Apple proudly boasts they don't want.