- Britain’s defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, was “heckled” by Apple’s Siri in Parliament on Tuesday.
- The Conservative MP was giving a speech on Syria when the voice-activated, artificially intelligent assistant on his iPhone butted in.
- The incident prompted laughter from MPs – but raises questions about Williamson’s cybersecurity practices.
The British Parliament is notorious for the childish jeers and shouts of its politicians, but when the defense secretary gave a speech on Tuesday, he was “heckled” by an unlikely source: his own iPhone.
As Gavin Williamson gave a statement on the situation on Syria, he was interrupted by Siri, the voice-activated, artificially intelligent assistant built into Apple’s iPhone.
Siri interjected to say, “I found something on the web for ‘Syria Syrian Democratic Forces supported by premonition,'” prompting chuckles from MPs as the Conservative politician scrambled to mute the phone.
Williamson joked about the interruption.
“I do apologise for that,” he said. “It is very rare that you’re heckled by your own mobile phone. On this occasion, it is a new parliamentary convention, without a doubt.”
Here’s a video:
When Siri interrupts as you're delivering a statement to Parliament… pic.twitter.com/NDsNUJDPV3
— BBC Parliament (@BBCParliament) July 3, 2018
Siri, if switched on, continually listens for an activation word to begin responding to commands; in this instance, it appears to have confused the word “Syria” with “Siri,” waking it up.
But following the incident, some have questioned the wisdom of a high-profile British politician having an always-on microphone in his pocket while he conducts official business.
“Erm hate to ruin the gag about Williamson’s phone, but isn’t turning off Siri one of the most basic things that you do if you care about erm, cybersecurity,” the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, tweeted.
Erm hate to ruin the gag about Williamson's phone, but isn't turning off Siri one of the most basic things that you do if you care about erm, cybersecurity
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) July 3, 2018
“Let’s pause this for a second to understand the implications. The British defense minister set his phone on always listening to use Siri,” the British tech entrepreneur Rodolfo Rosini wrote.
— Rodolfo Rosini ☕️✨ (@rodolfor) July 3, 2018
Williamson subsequently tweeted a joke about the incident, writing: “One of the pitfalls of having a new iPhone… I must ask my 13 year old daughter how to use it!”
— Gavin Williamson MP (@GavinWilliamson) July 3, 2018