When Siri Takes Over Your Phone

One morning earlier this week, I came down early and was working in our family room/kitchen area. My oldest daughter was charging her iPhone in the kitchen and it was randomly playing music. I would get up, turn off the music, and then a few minutes later, it would start again. Eventually I turned off the phone.

A bit later, when my daugher came down, she was in shock, her phone had randomly called dozens of her contacts on its own over the night.

So I took a look at her phone and it seemed that voice control had taken over her phone. I googled around to see what could be done and came up with this support forum thread. It explained that we could turn off voice dialing which we did, so that she would stop randomly dialing her contacts. But we were not able to turn off voice control entirely.

She’s in Park City this week so when she gets back to NYC, she will take the phone into the genius bar and get it fixed. But until then, Siri is controlling her phone. Randomly playing music when she doesn’t want it. Randonly facetiming people she doesn’t want to talk to. It’s a glimpse of the future to when AI goes haywire on us. It is not pleasant.


Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    ‘random’ is a factor in life. why should tech exclude it? these machines are going to become very real personal assistants, and they are going to become truly smart. they may begin to take decisions on our behalf, call people, email people, schedule meetings. et.c. little robots doing what they think we might want them to do. the default will have to be that they are sometimes required to ask first, based on a hierarchy of permissions that we set.my issue is Moto G or Nexus 5?Isn’t the Motorola voice utility in the Moto X better than Siri?

  2. Anne Libby

    Resisting a strong impulse to post a photo of a Cylon, or maybe a Terminator. #itsnotfunfriday

    1. ShanaC

      I’d laugh

    2. laurie kalmanson

      Do itAlso, There will come soft rains

  3. LIAD

    Siri controlling a phone I can cope withSiri controlling NORAD is when I start to worry

    1. Anne Libby

      Or Tinder.

    2. Elia Freedman

      Shall we play a game?

  4. JimHirshfield

    Did it play “Ghost in the Machine” by The Police?

    1. JamesHRH

      You have had more than one espresso this AM.Nice.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Hahahah…that was pre-caffeine.

    2. jason wright

      apple and sting

  5. Jan Schultink

    “Hello, I just confirmed that round-the-world-cruise you were looking at with your credit card ending in 1234, have a nice trip! Of course, I will remind you when to pack your suitcases”

  6. JimHirshfield

    Involuntary chatroulette?

  7. Julien

    One of the reason I will *never* own a loo that is not manually controlled. Everything *else* can end up there!

  8. BillMcNeely

    2 things. First,not to many daughters can say their Dads are more tech saavy then they are. Second, it seems most folks have moved past the Siri is cool stage but I would hazard a guess they don’t use her on a regular basis. What are your thoughts?

    1. B12N

      Personal experience here. I use Siri everyday, mainly for basic tasks (setting alarms, reminders, texting when hands aren’t free, checking sports scores, converting units). It’s way quicker than doing it by hand. Your post actually made me lookup more of what she can do online, and surprise, she could do a whole lot more than I thought…Still, I usually only use her when I’m alone, cause I still feel awkward speaking to my phone out in public – unlike in the movie “Her”.

  9. William Mougayar

    I think you’ve got too many wifi’s, drones, chromecasts, smartphones, Androids, tablets, Kindles, remote security & lighting,, etc… Siri felt she was overtaken by the Androids, and had a hissy fit.

    1. jason wright

      he needs a geiger counter

  10. Brandon Burns

    It’s a downer week on AVC, I see.Looking forward to Fun Friday. 🙂

    1. jason wright

      yes, not much new year positivity.

    2. JamesHRH

      C’mon, B!Yesterday should have been an UP! I love stories of people stepping up and facing reality, doing right by the business and getting on with it.I put Rob Kalin on my ‘have a java w in 2014 list’ after yesterday.

      1. Brandon Burns

        Nope, still sad!Did you see this? http://chrishateswriting.co…And then I think of all the untalented assholes in positions of power. And then I get less sad. And more angry.

        1. JamesHRH

          I did, but it didn’t make me sad.I never got Canvas and you would be pretty bombed if you bought us drinks until you convinced me that a drawing contest was a consumer unicorn of a startup.But @moot put on his Big Boy pants and made the tough call. He is to be wildly commended for that action.Real person news always pumps me up – most of the stuff out there is about the other kind of person (the type you mentioned).

    3. fredwilson

      Not happening this week

  11. leigh


  12. ObjectMethodology.com

    Gee Gadgeteer… Just leave the phone alone to express itself! 🙂

  13. Richard

    There are many legal issues that will (continue to) surface over the next 10 years that will be about technology but with fines and even jail terms served by its owner. Can Siri visit you in jail? There is a recent case of a Glass wearer being pulled out of a theater and interrogated for hours.

  14. Brian Crain

    A similar thing happens a lot with my iPhone. It will take some number from the ‘recent calls’ list and will call them over and over again. It’s super weird and annoying. I can’t figure out how to stop it (the only way seems to be to delete all recent calls), but it’s not Siri since I have that turned off anyway.I googled for a solution and there are definitely other people who have this problem, although it seems quite rare (https://discussions.apple.c…. I did come across this awful story though:”One most serious instant involving my iphone calling one of my prospective employers (I was on the short list for final decision) a few times late at night by itself while it was on my holster. I only caught it when I looked at the phone by chance. I was horrified that the call was on for a few minutes and I heard the annoyed prospective employer hollering on the other end. He never called me back despite my futile attempt to try to explain.”

  15. Andrew Kennedy

    Thought provoking post. Glimpsing a future headline: The AI Insurance Business Is Booming, But Will Company X’s Feature Y Change The Game?

  16. ShanaC

    It’s the ai not being an ai anymore. An ai going haywire would still retain it’s ai-ness, and would I guess develop a mental illness? Siri isn’t independent enough to be described as that

  17. takingpitches

    I found a text typed out to a friend this Sunday that neither of us had typed. Either our house is haunted (we’re newly moved into a 100 year old house) or my phone is by Siri,

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Wow. Did the text make sense?

      1. takingpitches

        It was coherent standing on its own, but not at all relevant to anything in my or my friend’s lives.I am betting on Siri, but it makes us reconsider other things: like noises we hear, directions our girls are smiling at where we don’t see anything, etc.

        1. JamesHRH

          25 years ago, I sat in a house in the country of SK, that had been moved out form the city of Saskatoon, after a grisly murder.I was invited out by friends of the renters, to witness a ‘haunted house’. I was quite certain that we were not getting conned, as there was nothing really in it for the renters.At the hour of the murder in question – b/t midnight & 1 AM – doors started to open & close on the upper floor, loudly.Spooky.If I got pranked, I got pranked good.

  18. Leonardo Gjoni

    I remember being the first out of all my friends and family with the Google g1 phone and I’ve been an Android user ever since then, I don’t see why the majority of the world prefers iPhone. Maybe because of it’s shiny fashionable look.

    1. fredwilson

      I am with you

      1. Cezary Pietrzak

        I’m drafting a detailed post on my experience with the Nexus 5 and how it compares to the iPhone, which I’ve been using since 2007. While my personal preference is toward the iPhone, I do appreciate the innovations that Android has introduced in the last few years. Overall, my biggest problem with Android is that it confuses more features with greater utility. Sure, you can argue that customizable desktops, keyboards, home screens etc. are empowering, but they also add a new layer of inconsistency to a platform, which translates to confusion and inefficiency in the long run. This is all on a top-of-the-line phone that runs KitKat, so I can only imagine what the experience is like on earlier versions of the platform and cheaper hardware.I believe the regular, non-tech people would prefer to use a smartphone that just works out of the box, rather than spending hours customizing an experience to their taste. Think of the pararellel between Windows and OS X, and how the latter requires almost no work. People love the iPhone not only because it looks beautiful, but that it works beautifully. The platform can always become stronger and more powerful because it has a great foundation, whereas Android has a shaky foundation that becomes a legacy cost for newer versions of the platform.There’s a longer discussion on the topic on Semil’s blog: http://blog.semilshah.com/2

  19. andyswan

    LOL drunk NSA guys

    1. JamesHRH


  20. Dave Pinsen

    What sort of device did you use to type this post. Fred?

    1. fredwilson

      Mac Air

  21. Cezary Pietrzak

    Two of the big mobile trends I see in the coming year are prone to mistakes like this:1) Touch-free interactions – the ability to control your mobile device through non-touch mechanisms, like voice, the always-on microphone, touch-free gestures and wearables (http://www.cezary.co/post/7…. The risk here is input devices not understanding the input or simply going crazy.2) Anticipatory computing – apps like Google Now and Refresh that derive insights from data to anticipate your needs (http://www.cezary.co/post/7…. The risk here is algorithms that make incorrect assumptions about your future actions and needs.Of course, these risks will always exist despite the technology’s overarching benefit of making the mobile experience snappier and more efficient. The way Siri simplifies checking the weather and sports scores or adding an appointment to your calendar is well worth any hiccups.

  22. Tom Labus

    Just wait until Siri starts making investments for you! ” I thought that USV should invest in this company, all the best, Siri”

  23. laurie kalmanson

    I feel your pain. I had a PC laptop for a project that would not stop playing music no matter how many times I restarted until I finally took out the battery for an hour

  24. laurie kalmanson

    Paging robot dinosaur

  25. Ela Madej

    Yes, it’s what I am thinking a lot those days. One day AI will do to us what we’re doing to animals and our planet (and rightfully so, it just won’t be pleasant). Speaking of technology used against people, it’s escalating–http://motherbo…

  26. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’ve heard this kind of stuff happens after an iPhone gets dropped. Sorta like a concussion or brain damage.I’m a little surprised there isn’t a Genius Bar in Park City 😉

    1. David Semeria

      Perhaps it needs therapy.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Years ago someone did a psychological profile of the average corporation (as if it was a person – which it is by law) and determined that it would be diagnosed as a sociopath. Wonder how Siri would be diagnosed…

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Siri has great boundaries. My 13 year old asks it ridiculous questions. Scary that I almost referred to it as “her.”

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            A 13 year old is pretty much the perfect test case for that, ha!

          2. Timothy Meade

            And one day it will actually answer.

    2. Brad

      None in Park City, but about four in the Salt Lake area.

      1. Timothy Meade

        No iPhone repair popups in Park City?

  27. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Her phone is Siriously f’d up.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Now, now, Kirsten, there is no reason touse the contraction “f’d” since the same number of keystrokes can spell out the full word you intended “fed”!

  28. PhilipSugar

    The button on the bottom of the phone is damaged.

    1. fredwilson


  29. awaldstein

    Apple support phone service aint’ bad. I buy it for my laptops, call in for any problem across all my devices. They’ve never not helped.

  30. Paul Meloan

    Could this become a verb? My phone got “HAL’d” ??

  31. Dave W Baldwin

    Wow! Wonder if this widespread since Apple had to settle re kids buying gems in games.Ironically, I’m putting together “thinking machine” presentation for engineering, design, electronics and networking students for tomorrow.

  32. JamesHRH

    Apple SW is very close to being MS Office.I opened my iPhoto this AM & found 1000 Art images, in varying languages, inside.Need an exterminator.

  33. Douglas Craver

    Sounds like Malware to me. Looks like it. Smells like it.

  34. Pankaj Garg

    totally unrelated.. but its fun to visit genius bar and even more fun when guy says genius is busy so you will need to wait.. and then for the request of battery change they say, genius will take 3 business days to replace the battery!

  35. Donna Brewington White

    Let’s start by making a pact not to refer to Siri as “her” or “she.” If we don’t personify it perhaps we can slow down the overthrow.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I think Siri downvoted me. 😉

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      It is impossible not to personify, but it is not always a woman. For me Siri is a man because my wife has it configured with a British guy voice. And yes, I hate him 🙂

      1. Donna Brewington White

        When we still had a Garmin GPS I configured with a female British voice (no male Brit voice available, sadly) and one of my kids named “her” Jeanette — I nicknamed her Gigi. I took her on my travels to put in the rental car (before I had a phone GPS). We had many adventures, and yes, I talked to her. I am ashamed.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I called her Garminella. Funny story. I was talking to my Dad (handsfree in the car). He heard her talk. He asked who is the woman in the car with you? I said no-one, just the GPS. The second time he heard her he was really indignant, I mean seriously pissed. I had to take him for a ride when he came down to visit.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Sounds like you come from good stock, Sugar.

  36. Mike Arnold

    I’ve never understood the utility of Siri. And probably never will. Has anyone used the voice service on the Nexus 5? I understand that phone is fantastic, and completely integrated in the Google ecosystem. I use it with Ting, a great phone service from Tucows.www.m1kearnold.comwww.indievestments.com

    1. Harsh-A

      N5 sucks as well with voice commands.

      1. Mike Arnold

        I won’t use it anyway. I like the google ecosystem. I use it for everything.

  37. Ben Longstaff

    lucky Siri doesn’t control the google self driving cars

  38. TechPRGuy

    This can happen when the Home button breaks…it clicks itself to voice control and stays there. Replacing the front screen is one fix.

    1. fredwilson

      That is exactly what happened. She went to the soft home button

    2. fredwilson


  39. jason wright

    does anyone have dick costolo’s email address?my twitter account has been hacked, but twitter assumes that i have been using it abusively and is requiring me to agree to never use my account in an abusive way again before i can regain control of it, which i find presumptuous in assuming my guilt.

    1. Hu Man

      @dickc. but they have already tracked the posts to your house/laptop. they have video of you typing them in and smirking. siriously.

  40. sigmaalgebra

    So far with ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI), the emphasisshould be on the first word while forgetting thesecond. Basically AI is some junk software withpoorly or unspecified inputs, manipulations ofthose inputs, and outputs. In some cases thesoftware might do some interesting things, butthat it is ‘intelligent’ is a bad joke. My kitty catis much, Much, MUCH smarter across a widerange of activities and circumstances.For 99 44/100% of useful software, the overallsituation remains much like old tools, e.g.,calculators, cars, shop tools, where we know quite well what the tool is intended to do and how to use it. Such software has well understoodinput data, manipulations of that data, and outputs.Mostly in the past the data manipulations, e,g,,for accounting, inventory control, or numericalcontrolled machining, were well understood frommanual work long before the software. Some software, say, for fly by wire for a naturally unstable airplane, are well understood with quitea lot of engineering math. But ‘intelligent’? That’sjust noise from someone putting $10 of quartersin a hype machine.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      That is why I’ve told people for now it should stand for Artificial Ignorance rather than Asinine Intelligence.

  41. Druce

    Have also heard of the touchscreen going berserk, random keypresses constantly happening, as if a poltergeist or remote attacker has taken over the phone.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      We had a Kindle Fire that did this. Had to replace it.

  42. Donna Brewington White

    My Samsung Galaxy S4 came with the words “Life Companion” on the homescreen which I thought was nervy. I will remove as soon as I have time. Even if it is sadly true.

    1. Hu Man

      How long do you think that will take and is it really worth doing? Siriously, this gets to my other beef w/ technology – we can’t keep up with it and that makes us feel crappy. Oh, and the sedentary time – when our bodies are meant to move!

  43. LE

    Perhaps worse than this is the “hot mike” problem.In the 90’s before I got divorced I thought I had disconnected from a call with my ex wife. After I thought the call had ended, I said a few things that were really bad. I couldn’t even talk my way out of it. Did quite a bit of damage.I’ve had cases where people have dialed me by accident and I’ve heard conversations that they are having in the background. Sometimes they butt dial from the iphone.

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      A friend’s phone dialed his wife at 2am while we were at a strip club in a bachelor party. Nothing important was happening, but he had to work a lot to solve that situation when he arrived home.

      1. LE

        I think both of our situations are a good example of how you learn to be safe over time.Because I always check that the mic is off after ending a call. And in the case of your friend I’m sure he now knows to turn his phone off when he is in the strip club.It’s good to make little mistakes early on because they help you from making big much mistakes later in life. That’s why they are little mistakes because if they were big mistakes you probably wouldn’t be around after them.

    2. JamesHRH

      There is a classic radio industry legend, possibly true, about an On Air host who does Good Night stories for kids (in the 50’s). One night, he flicks the switch to turn off the mic but it toggles back and the mic stays open.He then proceeds to say, roughly, ‘ that oughta hold the lil f*&kers over to tomorrow’.Moral – when in the studio, alway assume the mic is on.

  44. Vineeth Kariappa

    NSA wants to know everything abt ” THE fred”.

  45. JamesHRH

    If you ever get nervous about AI, all you have to do is remember that Bill Gates is a huge proponent of the imminent explosion of Voice Recognition as a mainstream interface for computing systems……..and has been since 1990.All these cats – Bill, Larry, Zuck – think that AI beats HI. Sorry.My wife visited a supplier named Bucyrus several years ago (Bucyrus is now Catepillar’s mining division) and this grizzled mining guy says to her, when discussing automation: ‘AI is real good at telling you when you aren’t doing what you are supposed to be doing. But that’s about it.’Which is what they use it for, when the world’s largest dump trucks are driving around oil sands mining operations with a load of dirt that is equivalent to……. jeez, what the hell is equivalent to 400 tons?https://mining.cat.com/cda/… – click on the 797F, that’s the Big Daddy.We have a picture of us, standing inside the wheel (think about that, I am 6’2″) of one of these, at a Family Day event.

    1. PhilipSugar

      The answer to your question is a 747 which actually flies. That is why you live all the way up there. Many of those workers are our clients best customers.

      1. JamesHRH

        Who knew that you could load up a 747 to that level? Wow.I will bite – what do your clients do?

        1. PhilipSugar

          In your area of the world run casino’s.

    2. Cam MacRae

      My little brother drives one for a living. And a bloody good living it is.

  46. hypermark

    One can envision the day when “Peripheral Pirates: get their jollies sending offensive print jobs to your printer, turn your lights on and off repeatedly to freak you out and cause all of the phones in a city to ring simultaneously (ala the moment of singularity in ‘Lawnmower Man’) as a show of power.

  47. Eddie Wharton

    Robin Williams suggested an AI with the voice of Bob Dylan. That would be pretty amusing and in app purchase I would make?

  48. sigmaalgebra

    Sounds like Apple is making the same mistakeMicrosoft long did — to have more features andfunctionality and more ease of use, be sloppyabout computer security. So, just wait untilSiri or some such sends all the Bitcoins to Silk Road or some such!

  49. rick gregory

    Uh… just turning off Siri and making sure the accessibility features for Guided Access etc are off didn’t fix this?

  50. Ann

    They spent so much creating siri. Its not needed.www.littletreecafe.com

  51. Jeff

    This happened with my iphone a while back as well. The issue was actually that the home button was broken / had been exposed to water / sweat. So every once in a while at work or in the middle of the night, the voice control would automatically trigger form the home button issue and it would either take some random command from background noise or just play a song / call somebody if there was no background noise. Not being able to turn voice control off leaves the issue unfixable unless you go to the genius bar and get the phone replaced. I imagine that is what the apple genius will tell her

    1. Matt McCormick

      The diagnosis on this is spot on. It’s almost certainly a bad home button. But don’t let Apple convince you to get her a new phone. There are a lot of 3rd party repair companies out there that will fix this for about $50-$75 depending on the phone.I actually own one of these companies and can tell you what to look for. You want a real business (not a guy off Craigslist), a guarantee they’ll fix it for you or won’t charge you (in case it is something else), a decent warranty, and great reviews in Yelp.They should also be able to fix it in under an hour.

  52. george

    Who’s responsible for Siri running rogue?

  53. Dave W Baldwin

    Hmm, Facebook has started their AI Lab. Be careful what you wish for.