A Cork based company that employed staff to listen to Siri recordings and check them for mistakes as part of a service it provided to Apple says it is continuing to assess the impact on its business of the tech giant's decision to suspend the programme.

Staff employed by GlobeTech Services Ltd, an IT managed services firm based at the Cork Airport Business Park, worked on the so-called "grading" of Apple's voice assistant.

At the start of this month, Apple suspended the programme after a public outcry about privacy which followed the publication by the Guardian newspaper of a whistleblower's account of what it involved.

According to that report, contractors regularly heard confidential medical information, drug deals and recordings of couples having sex as part of their quality control job.

Apple said a very small random subset of less than 1% of Siri recordings are used for the purposes of grading and those recordings are very short in duration.

The decision to suspend the activity meant dozens of graders working for GlobeTech and other contractors internationally no longer had work to do as part of that project.

Today GlobeTech declined to comment on reports that hundreds have since been laid off as a result and referred RTE News to a statement it had issued on the matter eight days ago.

It said that employees had been informed that a project had been ended early and that the company was assessing the impact of the decision on the business.

"This is a difficult situation for everyone involved," said Kevin Kelly, CEO of GlobeTech in the statement.

"The nature of our business means that the majority of our employee contracts are fixed purpose and are linked to client requirements and project lifecycles."

"We are committed to supporting our employees through potential redeployment opportunities, where possible."

Apple also declined to comment on the matter when contacted by RTE News today, but referred to an earlier statement which said it was working closely with its partners to ensure the best possible outcome for its suppliers, their employees and its customers around the world.

It is understood that the next release of Apple's iOS mobile operating system will contain an option to allow users to opt-out from the grading programme.

Apple's European headquarters is at Hollyhill in Cork.

Apple confirmed today that it would quit its default practice of retaining audio recordings of the requests users make to Siri. 

It also said it would limit human review of what audio it does collect to its own employees rather than contractors.

Increased public and political scrutiny of data privacy practices have forced greater transparency from Silicon Valley companies, with Alphabet's Google pausing reviews of audio recordings from its Google assistant service for all purposes in all languages after a leak of Dutch audio data.

Apple has promoted its privacy practices in an effort to distance itself from its rivals and has taken steps since Siri's introduction in 2011 to limit data collection. 

Apple said that it will quit keeping audio for human review and instead let users opt in to having their audio reviewed if they choose. The company said it will still use computer-generated transcripts to improve Siri.

Apple also said that it will let only employees review the audio and that it "will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri."

Apple said the pause on the program will remain in place until the changes are carried out but did not give a date.

Additional reporting: Reuters