Apple News, apple, NSA, Obama administration, Privacy, Technology — June 17, 2013 20:58 — 0 Comments
Apple follows Facebook’s lead and reveals US surveillance requests
Tech giant promises that iMessage, FaceTime, location details and Siri requests remain private in effort to reassure customers
This article titled “Apple follows Facebook’s lead and reveals US surveillance requests” was written by Dominic Rushe in New York and Stuart Dredge, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 17th June 2013 09.40 UTC
Apple has joined rivals including Facebook, Google and Twitter in calling on the US government to allow it to publish more details of the secret court orders its receives to disclose customers’ information.
The company gave more details of its dealings with US authorities Monday as it sought to reassure customers in the wake of the scandal surrounding the National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance program.
In a blogpost, Apple said it received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from federal, state and local authorities for customer data between 1 December 2012 and 31 May 2013. The requests affected between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices. Apple stressed that each request was evaluated on its merits and was not automatically granted.
The company is barred from revealing how many of the requests have been made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), the legal basis for the Prism surveillance program. The company said the figures dealt specifically with “requests we receive related to national security”.
“Like several other companies, we have asked the US government for permission to report how many requests we receive related to national security and how we handle them. We have been authorized to share some of that data, and we are providing it here in the interest of transparency,” said Apple.
Last week Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter all called on the government to allow them to publish more details about the nature and number of requests for information they receive.
Google publishes a transparency report documenting numbers of government requests for information. However, like its rivals, Google is barred from detailing the number of Fisa requests its receives.
In a letter to US attorney general Eric Holder last week, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote: “Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the US government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of Fisa national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.”
Apple said the most common form of request comes from “police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide”.
The company pointedly moved to distance itself from Google and Facebook, which collect masses of information on customers in order to fuel their advertising-driven businesses.
“Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers’ personal data, and we don’t collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place,” said the company.
The company said conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime “are protected by end-to-end encryption, so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.”
It added: “We will continue to work hard to strike the right balance between fulfilling our legal responsibilities and protecting our customers’ privacy as they expect and deserve.”
On Friday, Facebook became the first company to release similar aggregate numbers of surveillance requests, claiming it received between 9,000 and 10,000 US requests for user data in the second half of 2012, covering 18,000 to 19,000 of its users’ accounts.
Microsoft followed suit with its own disclosure of requests for the second half of 2012, during which it received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security requests affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts.
Apple’s announcement reiterated the company’s previous claim that it had never heard of the National Security Agency’s Prism programme before being asked about it by journalists on 6 June.
“We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order,” the statement said.
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