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SwiftKey leak sends users’ email addresses, phone numbers to strangers

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It’s supposed to be predicting the next word or now, emoji, that you want to use, but SwiftKey is in trouble after users discovered that bad suggestions were actually the result of a data leak. The British keyboard app that was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year is known for its approachable use of artificial intelligence in helping people figure out that next word on the tip of their tongues, but now, some of its services have been temporarily suspended.

In a statement issued on the company’s blog, the SwiftKey team wrote, “This week, a few of our customers noticed unexpected predictions where unfamiliar terms, and in some rare cases emails, appeared when using their mobile phone. We are working quickly to resolve this inconvenience.”

As a result of this problem (which SwiftKey insists “did not posed a security issue” for users), the app has “turned off the cloud sync service and have updated our applications to remove email address predictions.” That means that for now, “it will not be possible to back up your SwiftKey language model.”

While SwiftKey says that most users are not affected by the issue, they’re urging individuals to should they notice any funny business. 

And some of the business has been funny indeed. “A few days ago, I received an email from a complete stranger asking if I had recently purchased and returned a particular model of mobile phone,” one user reported, “adding that not one but two of my email addresses (one personal and one work address) were saved on the phone she had just bought as brand new.”

The stranger added that some of the suggested words and phrases included friends’ names and addresses for private servers at work. The user continued, “It also suggested, when she typed a zero, the telephone number for someone I had phoned recently.”

Because SwiftKey actually accesses to your emails, social media messages, and texts to better predict how you’ll want to respond, it maintains a huge database of personal information. And apparently, that’s now somehow gotten out.

Still, the app said, “We take users’ privacy and security very seriously and are committed to maintaining world-class standards for our community.” Further updates will be posted on the SwiftKey blog.

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