Many of 121 Apple AI Employees Unwilling to Relocate to New Austin Location

Apple Inc. is planning to shut down a 121-person team related to artificial intelligence operations in San Diego, putting many employees at risk of termination. The group, known as Data Operations Annotations, is being asked to relocate to Austin, Texas to merge with the Texas part of the same team. Employees have until the end of February to make their decision, or they will be terminated on April 26.

This group, which also has offices in China, India, Ireland, and Spain, is tasked with improving Siri by listening to queries to the voice service and determining its accuracy. A top deputy to Apple AI chief John Giannandrea announced the decision to close the office.

The company confirmed that the relocation is part of an effort to bring its “Data Operations Annotations teams in the US together at the campus in Austin, where a majority of the team is already based.” Current employees will have the chance to continue their roles with Apple in Austin.

This move came as a surprise for the San Diego staff, who had been told recently that they would be relocated to a new Apple campus in the area at the end of January. Nevertheless, most of the affected workers are reportedly unwilling to relocate to Austin. Although Apple has offered employees the chance to apply for other jobs, some feel they won’t be eligible for many roles due to their lack of engineering backgrounds.

Those willing to relocate by the end of June will be able to keep their roles, and Apple is offering $7,000 relocation stipends. Those who choose to leave will get four weeks of severance, plus an extra week for every year worked, and six months of health insurance.

The team has a significant history within Apple. It used to be comprised mostly of contractors who listened to Siri queries to ensure their accuracy, a practice that raised privacy concerns and was made optional in 2019. The contractors were eventually replaced with full-time employees. A small number of these employees have begun assisting Apple with a move to AI products based on large language models, or LLMs.