Apple workers in Cork can sometimes hear private conversations recorded by devices such as iPads or iPhones because the automatic voice assistant, Siri, is activated accidentally, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

Gary Davis, Apple's company's Director of Privacy Compliance, has told the Oireachtas Communications Committee that the company is working to minimise such mistakes.

In July a whistleblower claimed that contractors could regularly hear private recordings such as phone owners' conversations with their doctors, business deals, drug deals and couples having sex.

These contractors were involved in "grading", or analysing Siri's responses for the purpose of improving the accuracy of its voice detection and its responses, Apple said at the time.

Asked today by Sinn Féin's David Cullinane whether the whistleblowers' claims were accurate, Mr Davis said that there can be "false activations of Siri". But he said the grading programme is designed to identify such mistakes and minimise them.

"Your device is not listening to you, it is listening to the words 'Hey Siri' and at that point then it will contact our servers, it happens all on your device.

"In terms of the precise things that the whistleblower heard, I don't know precisely those elements but I think I will go back to the point, that grader was not able to link those things to an identifiable individual."

Mr Davis said Apple took those concerns seriously and that this work is no longer carried out by contractors but by Apple employees in Cork, where there are currently 6,000 people employed.

"We immediately suspended the grading programme and took the important steps of bringing it all in-house so it is only undertaken by Apple-badged employees in Cork," he said.

"We have brought them in and they have very clear instructions now in relation to the deletion of certain triggers and we are working to ensure that we absolutely minimise them," he told committee members.