SwiftKey, the popular predictive text keyboard app for Android and iOS has shut down part of its services after it was found that the app had been leaking the private data fr users to complete strangers.
Bought by Microsoft earlier this year in a deal believed to be worth $250 million, SwiftKey uses artificial intelligence to try and predict what a user wants to type in a message.
In order to do this, SwiftKey teaches itself how you communicate, and pick ups any unique words of phrases you may use and stores them in a database.
Thanks to the app’s online sync options, you can also allow SwiftKey to sync that database across multiple devices ensuring that your personalised keyboard works as you move from smartphone to tablet.
However, SwiftKey’s AI sync option has been sharing a lot more than it should!
According to a report in The Telegraph (paywall) it has been been offering up suggestions and passing on information to total strangers.
One user reported her shock when she saw the email of another user appeared in one of the suggestions from the SwiftKey app while she was tapping on her keyboard.
Other users complained of being offered suggestions in languages they could not speak and had never previously used.
Given the sensitive nature of the amount of private or personal information that is typed using the keyboard on a smartphone or tablet – names, email addresses, phone numbers, passwords, credit card details and banking information – the claims made in The Telegraph are likely to raise serious concerns among SwiftKey users, especially for anyone who works in a profession that requires the utmost security and confidentially.
On Friday, SwiftKey responded to the claims in a post on its official blog where it said:
“This week, a few of our customers noticed unexpected predictions where unfamiliar terms, and in some rare cases emails, appeared when using their mobile phone. We are working quickly to resolve this inconvenience.
“While this did not pose a security issue for our customers, we have turned off the cloud sync service and are updating our applications to remove email address predictions. During this time, it will not be possible to back up your SwiftKey language model.
The vast majority of SwiftKey users are not affected by this issue. If you have any reason to believe you are seeing unfamiliar predictions, please contact reviews@SwiftKey.com.
We take users’ privacy and security very seriously and are committed to maintaining world-class standards for our community”.