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Apple: Active Pursuit of Cellphone Metadata and Voiceprints

Biometric identifier pinpoints you as accurately as a fingerprint

At least one software giant has moved from a passive to an active role in reaping personal information from the web such as cellphone metadata. Apple, a company long known for stability, by 2013 takes a new stance: AppleCare Support pressures its customers, wheedles, and maneuvers toward one fixed goal: To convince a customer to change over from Chat or Email to a telephone call. Technical questions a customer might bring to AppleCare no longer weigh on the scale.

Review of my experience: On June 7, 2013 I bought an iPod Touch from Future Shop. Being new, the iPod was eligible for AppleCare Support. The initial issue was that my iPod would not connect to iTunes. Later there emerged a discrepancy between the purchase date on my receipt versus the date on record at Apple. The date had to be resolved to restore my full warranty period.

Diligently I searched tutorials and forums but found no answers. Then I tried Apple Support. I logged in with my Apple ID, entered my device serial number, and chose a contact method: Chat (real-time communication done in writing in a browser window).

On June 18, 2013 I had two Chat sessions (duration 89 and 80 minutes). Over the two sessions, Apple subjected me to 15 separate demands to change over to a telephone call, despite my steadfast plea that I preferred written contact. My inquiries about iTunes and the purchase date went unsolved.

Next day I discovered Apple's Privacy Questions page, and through there submitted an email titled Allow Customer to Limit Contact Method. That solved the issue of the purchase date, though Apple made one audacious last stand to inveigle a phone call.

Interaction Date / Time Number of ploys by Apple
for telephone contact
Apple Chat: First Session 2013 June 18 08:50 AM 8 distinct ploys
Apple Chat: Second Session 2013 June 18 10:42 AM 7 distinct ploys
Apple Privacy Question 2013 June 19 July 2 1 ploy

What do Telephones Mean to Apple?

I accessed Chat because I needed links to iTunes tutorials, and I also needed to restore my full warranty period. What media suits hypertext links – a browser window, or a phone call? What is the businesslike way to verify a purchase receipt – to email a scanned image, or to talk by phone? In these circumstances, the demands for telephone contact made no sense.

Yet the Apple reps exerted persistent, escalating pressure for a phone call; my technical questions eventually fell by the wayside. Conclusion: Apple sets a higher priority on establishing phone contact than on providing tech support. The mandate deserves thought. Consider:

Edward Snowden unveiled the NSA surveillance projects – Prism, Stellar Wind, Boundless Informant – which siphon cellphone data from the web. To accomplish their data-mining, the NSA negotiates the cooperation of software giants. This puts our cellphone metadata at risk. But another, less-publicized parameter exists. During a call on a smartphone, voice-recognition software can analyze and store your voiceprint on company servers. This biometric identifier is equal in accuracy to a fingerprint. On Apple devices the technology is called Siri.

Data-mining of cellphone metadata and voiceprints could explain Apple's coercive attempts for phone contact. But clients can say no, and stand firm.

The Chat Transcripts and Privacy Question emails are lengthy. The excerpts on this page establish the sequence of 16 telephone references. For background and context, visit the fulltext documents.

First Chat Session: June 18, 2013 08:50 AM

Duration 89 minutes Fulltext
Apple (Ryan) Hello, my name is Ryan. Welcome to AppleCare chat support. Please give me a moment to look over your information. I see you are having an issue with connecting to iTunes. You purchased it on 6-7-2013. Is that correct? Intro
Customer Yes, I have my receipt in front of me. I bought it at Future Shop in Saskatoon.
Apple (Ryan) Okay, yes our system is showing a purchase date of 5-8-2013. Was this purchased as a new iPod touch from Future Shop?
Customer Yes, it was bought as a new iPod Touch from Future Shop. But your date of 5-8-2013 is wrong. I should check: does that date mean May 8, 2013?
Apple (Ryan) Yes, it does mean May 8th 2013. We can get this straightened out for you. However I would need to put you in touch with an advisor over the phone. I would be happy to have an advisor call you in a matter of minutes. How does that sound? Telephone
# 1
Customer No, this should be in writing. I cannot think of any reason why you want to involve telephones.
Apple (Ryan) I sense that you have some outstanding concerns; how about I contact a senior advisor to look at your situation to get another set of eyes on your issue?
Apple (Ryan) I can help you with the technical issue with iTunes but we are geared for the technical side of things. Issues such an your purchase date are normally handled by another department only available over the phone at this time. However if I bring a senior advisor on, here in chat they have more tools at their disposal and may be able to better asset you regarding this. I am happy to do whatever you are most comfortable with. Telephone
# 2
Customer Okay, bring on a senior advisor. No problem.
Apple (Ryan) I really apologize, my system is updating and I am unable to bring a senior advisor on at this time. I only have the ability to schedule an advisor to call you at this time. I would be more than happy to address the iTunes issue with you now. Or have an advisor call you. I know you would prefer to keep this in chat. Another thing I can do is notate everything we discussed on your case, that way you can chat us back and speak with a senior advisor here in chat. What would work best for you? Telephone
# 3
Customer Okay – help me with iTunes now. Then tell me when to Chat back, at a time when a senior advisor is available.
Apple (Ryan) Well, I have to admit my expertise is on the iOS side of things. But an advisor in our Mac support department may be able to help troubleshoot that issue with you. However our Mac support department is not available in chat at this time, only over the phone. Telephone
# 4
Customer It sounds as if I will have to speak to an advisor. When can that be arranged? Telephone
# 5
Apple (Ryan) I know you would rather keep this in chat and I would to, but yes, speaking with an advisor over the phone for the Mac slowness and the other issue would really be the best away to resolve both issues.
Customer Can your senior advisor find a copy of iTunes 10.7 and place it on the Apple site? Please note: I will communicate with the advisor by Chat, or by email if he/she prefers... Technical issues really do have to be explored in writing.
Apple (Ryan) I agree I find it easier myself! A senior advisor can look into it, but in this instance they would most likely be unable to. It would not hurt to check though and normally I would for you if I was not having the issue with my system currently!
Apple (Ryan) What time is it where you are? I will find the best time for an advisor to call you if you like. Telephone
# 6
Customer How many days lead time do you need?
Apple (Ryan) I can more than likely have an advisor call you in matter of minutes! Telephone
# 7
Customer Okay, now hold on. Twice I have explained that our communication will be in writing, by Chat or by email ONLY.
Apple (Ryan) I apologize maybe I misunderstood, a moment ago you asked about having an advisor call you and when it could be arranged. I was just going by that if you would like to keep this in chat the best thing to do is chat back in 20 minutes and we can put you in touch with a senior advisor if you prefer. My apologies if I misunderstood. Telephone
# 8
Customer Okay, chat back in about 20 minutes.  [Logout at 10:20 AM]

Second Chat Session: June 18, 2013 10:42 AM

Duration 80 minutes Fulltext
Apple (Karen) I really need to get you over to an advisor who works in the CPU department. Would you be willing to take a phone call right now? What is a good number to call you on? Telephone
# 9
Customer At the end of my last Chat, Ryan asked me to Chat back in 20 minutes (which is about now), to communicate with a senior advisor. But not by telephone. By Chat or email only, please.
Apple (Karen) I am bringing Rob on the line now, my senior advisor.
Apple (Rob) If you contact phone support and provide a receipt, they can adjust your purchase date to reflect the correct information. Telephone
# 10
Customer I guess the purchase date is important, for the sake of the warranty.
Apple (Rob) FutureShop should be able to answer the question of original purchase date more definitively than Technical Support can.
Customer I will ask them next time I am in the store. How do I get the purchase date adjusted by Apple. I have my receipt from Future Shop in front of me now. Can I email the data, or scan the receipt and email the image? Telephone
# 11
Apple (Rob) I can schedule a call back from the Phone Support group and they can walk you though the process. I would just need the best time and number to reach you.
Customer For business, I communicate only in writing. That is firm. Thus make arrangements for Chat or email, or even ordinary (snail) mail. Nothing else.
Apple (Rob) Chat Support, nor email support, has the resources in place to make those adjustments. Telephone
# 12
Customer Why? Surely, giving the information verbally (over the phone) cannot be any kind of verification... And please note: If Apple cannot do this in writing, it creates an aura of something wrong. So here are the options: Chat, or email, or ordinary mail, or else I return the iPod.
Apple (Rob) I really would like to help you further with this. But I believe we have exhausted all the resources available to us here in Chat Support. Telephone
# 13
Customer Answer my last question.
Apple (Rob) I know that's probably not the answer you were hoping to hear, but I want to be as honest and straightforward with you as possible. I hope you understand we want to do everything we can to help, but there's even limits to what we can do for some situations. Telephone
# 14
Customer No, all I have seen between you and Ryan is persistent pressure for telephone contact. I have my own opinion on that score.
Apple (Rob) The internal infrastructure of Apple is such that Chat Support is here to assist with basic troubleshooting. More complicated scenarios, like your situation, are handled by Phone Support. Telephone
# 15
Customer Those situations could just as easily be handled by email.
Apple (Rob) I'm not really in any position to discuss the viability of that statement. Would you like me to schedule a call back from Phone Support in order to adjust that Purchase Date.
Customer If the good Snowden did not have his hands full, I might send this transcript to him. Goodbye.  [Logout]

Apple Privacy Question Emails

2013 June 19 to July 2 Fulltext
# 16
✓  Success !


Voice Biometrics

Patents: Voice Recognition Software

Want to know where federal surveillance is headed?  Take a walk through recent patent titles on the Justia Patents site. The NSA routinely harvests voice profiles for permanent storage in a vast database which makes no distinction between whitelist or blacklist. Software giants and independent inventors alike are along for the ride.

A voiceprint is far more intrusive than metadata from email or cellphone logs. Discard the tranquil metaphor that the NSA harvests only data equivalent to the outside of a mailed envelope. As patents reveal, Speaker Recognition Software is now so sophisticated that profiling is on the horizon through analysis of your emotions (intensity of speech); your personality type (tone of voice, speed); your education level and socio-economic status (word length); and your birthplace (pronunciation, rhythm).

Apple Voice assignment for text-to-speech output
AT&T System and method for tracking persons of interest via voiceprint
Google Hybrid Client-Server Speech Recognition In A Mobile Device
Independent Building whitelists comprising voiceprints not associated with fraud
Microsoft Supplementing biometric identification with device identification
Nuance (Siri) Method, apparatus, and program for certifying a voice profile
NSA Biomimetic Voice Identifier
Sprint Generation of voice profiles
Georgena S. Sil
Saskatoon, Canada
Physicist & Technical Writer
Alumnus: University of British Columbia

Copyright © 2008-2018 Georgena Sil. All Rights Reserved.