Watch as the U.K.’s defense secretary gets ‘heckled’ by Siri during a speech

Apple’s digital assistant left a leading member of the U.K. government red-faced on Tuesday, July 3, after it unexpectedly piped up during a speech he was giving to lawmakers in the British Parliament.

Perhaps a little too keen to offer help, Siri interrupted a statement that defense secretary Gavin Williamson was giving to the House of Commons about the situation in Syria.

Evidently keeping his phone in always-listening mode, Apple’s digital assistant should really only have responded upon hearing “Hey, Siri.” But, with his iPhone in his pocket, it seems the word “Syria” prompted the assistant to spring into action.

As Williamson addressed lawmakers, Siri got back to the defense secretary with its findings, with the response picked up by the Commons’ microphones: “I found something on the web for Syria, Syrian Democratic Forces supported by coalition … ”

Speaker John Bercow was quick to respond, describing the unusual happening as a “very rum business” (an archaic term for “odd”) as the defense secretary scrambled to switch off his iPhone.

“I do apologize for that,” a sheepish-looking Williamson said, adding, “It is very rare that you are heckled by your own mobile phone.”

He then asked the Speaker if could proceed, “without the help and support of Siri.”

Williamson later tweeted that the gaff was “one of the pitfalls of having a new iPhone … I must ask my 13-year-old daughter how to use it!”

But some people questioned whether it was wise for a defense secretary to be going around with a phone that had voice-recognition software switched on all the time.

A source close to Williamson later insisted that having Siri switched on did not pose a security risk, adding that defense secretary did not take the phone into confidential or sensitive meetings.

A similar though more serious incident occurred in May when Amazon’s Alexa assistant mistakenly recorded a couple’s private conversation and sent it to someone on their contact list.

Always listening?

In a piece about whether our smartphones are indeed listening to us the all of the time, we point out how “the internet is rife with anecdotal stories about digital eavesdropping,” noting that “many people feel that conversations they’ve had within earshot of their phones have been used to tailor advertising.”

Both Apple and Google keep recordings of users’ conversations with their respective digital assistants, though Apple deletes files after two years and says it only uses them to improve the product.

To see your Google history, log in to your account and type history.google.com/history into your browser’s address bar. You’ll see all of your activity on Google’s various services, among them Chrome, Search, and YouTube. Tap Filter by date & product at the top, choose Voice & Audio, and select Search. Any voice searches you’ve made on Google will be listed, and you can even play them back.

Want to prevent your phone from always listening for the keyword — whether “OK Google” or “Hey Siri” — that activates its assistant? On Android, go to Settings > Google > Search & Now > Voice and turn off “OK Google” detection. For the iPhone, go to Settings > Siri & Search and toggle “Listen for Hey Siri” to off.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Laptop screen extenders and self-healing tents

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Apple's third iOS 12 beta may help you save a lot of data

At this year's Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple unveiled its latest operating system, iOS 12. From app updates to group FaceTime, ARKit 2.0, and more, here are all the new features in iOS 12.
Mobile

Worried about extra data charges? Here’s how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.
Mobile

Here’s how to download podcasts and listen to them on Android or iOS

Podcasts have become a cultural staple. Here's how to download podcasts and listen to them on your Android or iOS device, and which apps to use if you're looking to get the most out of the format.
Mobile

Visual snapshots on Google Assistant provides your day at a glance

Google's artificially intelligent bot, Google Assistant, is available on smart home speakers, smart home devices, iOS and Android phones, and it can do a whole lot of work on your behalf. Here are all of its features.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.
Mobile

Google’s $5.1 billion anti-trust fine could mean the end of free Android

The European Commission has fined Google a record breaking $5.1 billion. The EU is accusing the company of severe antitrust infractions related to the search engine giant's handling of the Android ecosystem.
Smart Home

Amazon Echo vs. Dot: What’s the difference?

Amazon Echo vs. Dot: Having Alexa answer your questions is nothing short of futuristic, but which device should you get? There are some big differences between the two, especially in size, sound, and cost.
Home Theater

Here’s how to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow casting of anything on your mobile device to your TV. If you're wondering how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to a bigger screen, we've got an in-depth guide.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Computing

The 2018 MacBook Pro just launched. How does it compare to last year's model?

An all-new MacBook Pro 13-inch has finally arrived, bringing with it Intel's powerful quad-core processor. But should you buy the 2018 model or save some cash and get last year's version instead?
Gaming

Everything you need to know about ‘Madden NFL 19’

Madden NFL 19 arrives on PS4, Xbox One, and PC August 10. This year's iteration of the football sim adds much desired features for popular modes such as franchise and Ultimate Team and brings the return of the Longshot story mode.
Mobile

Only Google should be mad about having to change Android

Google has been hit with a massive fine in a landmark antitrust case in Europe, and has been told to change the way it manages its Android operating system, or face a heavier financial hit.
Home Theater

Don’t wake the baby! How to connect headphones to a TV

Do you need to connect a pair of headphones to your TV? Our handy guide will show you how to hook up your headphones in a variety of ways, whether you're using wired headphones, wireless headphones, or gaming headsets.
Home Theater

Need more contrast in your life? Here’s what you need to know about HDR TVs

So what is HDR TV? In a nutshell, it’s the best thing to happen to TV since the arrival of 4K. Here's everything you need to know about the technology, what it can do, and why it’s a must-have.
Mobile

Apple stops offering free repairs for iPhones with grayed speaker buttons

Getting a new iPhone should be a pleasurable experience, but if you run into an issue, it can quickly become frustrating. Luckily, we’ve gathered a few potential solutions for any iPhone 7 problems you may be facing.
Mobile

Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6 will help your phone survive up to 15 drops before it shatters

Corning has finally taken the wraps off of the long-awaited Gorilla Glass 6 -- a glass that will be used to protect the next generation of smartphones -- which allows your phone to survive up to 15 drops before it breaks.
Computing

Relive 1998 as live chat rooms roll out across Reddit in a limited beta

Reddit is slowly rolling out real-time chat rooms across a limited number of subreddits. Currently in beta, Reddit Chat went live in 2017 for a small group of around 7,000 users. Reddit is now expanding this service.
Mobile

These are the best video chat apps to help you stay in touch

Though still relatively new, video chat apps can help you connect with people from around the world. Here are our personal favorites to help you keep in touch regardless of smartphone OS.
Mobile

These might be the best photos shot with an iPhone in 2018

The iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAWARDS) announced its official winners of its 11th annual global competition. Each one was selected from thousands of entries spanning over 140 countries around the world.
Home Theater

What is MHL, exactly, and how does it work with your TV?

There are more ways to mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV than you might think. Check out our rundown of MHL for everything you need to know about the wired protocol and its myriad uses.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.