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Apple issues rare public comment on its 'commitment to customer privacy'

post #1 of 83
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Apple published a rare public comment discussing "Apple?s Commitment to Customer Privacy" in the wake of reports on the United States' "Prism" surveillance program.


Apple commitment to customer privacy


Apple's front page links to a new privacy statement


On June 6th, just days before Apple's weeklong Worldwide Developer Conference opened, the Washington Post published a report outlining a formerly secret government project ? codename Prism ? that it said monitored the central servers of nine major U.S. Internet companies, naming Apple as the most recent to join the surveillance program.

The report, based on leaked PowerPoint slides, described the government as being able to "extract audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person?s movements and contacts over time."Apple: "We have never heard of Prism. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers."

Apple denied the claims, saying in a statement to The Wall Street Journal, "We have never heard of Prism. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers."

Today's followup comment, published early this morning and linked to from the company's main website, follows in its entirety:

Two weeks ago, when technology companies were accused of indiscriminately sharing customer data with government agencies, Apple issued a clear response: We first heard of the government?s ?Prism? program when news organizations asked us about it on June 6. 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.

Like several other companies, we have asked the U.S. 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.

From December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement for customer data. Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in those requests, which came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters. 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.

Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it.

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. There are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it.

For example, 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.

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.
post #2 of 83
Good on Apple. I still think Apple needs to be a hardware company not a spy agency acting on behalf of the government. The government should do their own dirty work.
post #3 of 83
Why do you "still think that"?

Apple is quite obviously not "a spy agency acting on behalf of the government."

Also, the "dirty work" the government is doing is mostly routine law enforcement along with some efforts to stop terrorist plots.

There is not even a suggestion that the "government" is plotting to use clandestine technology to persecute some group of citizens. That's what the banks do, with immunity.
post #4 of 83
Good Guy Apple.
post #5 of 83
If Apple really wanted to protect it's customers privacy, it would move it's servers out of the US. Or at least move the servers for non-US customers out of the US.
post #6 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatisgoingon View Post

If Apple really wanted to protect it's customers privacy, it would move it's servers out of the US. Or at least move the servers for non-US customers out of the US.

 

If the US government a) collects taxes on foreign income and b) operates a global surveillance program, how would your fantasy of a draconian government NOT be able to syphon data from servers owned by a US corporation just because they were, say, installed in France?

 

And do you know that electricity for data centers costs twice as much in Europe as in the US? I'm glad you're not running Apple. You sound as superstitious and capricious in your strategies as the junta running Burma. 

post #7 of 83
They still used the qualification "direct access" which is as good as admitting that they allow indirect access (such as to non-Apple backups of the data) to all the information described and more. Sure the messages might be encrypted but I don't believe for a second that Apple doesn't store and keep the messages and encryption keys, even if only for essential service delivery and stability, and if the US government could get access to a temporary site and build their own databases then I'm sure they would!

Of course even if Apple doesn't knowingly provide the information it's far easier to believe that the US government would take it if they could than not. And I don't think there's any doubt that they have the capability to do so. Being able to know what every person is thinking and doing is the holy grail of data that any Government would do anything they can to get their filthy perverse hands on. The problem is when they go to such lengths that they have to keep it secret in order to prevent a massive public backlash.

US diplomatic cables reveal the extent of secrecy and coercion in which the US government operates. What do you think the whole Echelon project is about. What amazes me is that people re-elect governments that spend huge amounts of our money to spy on us.

I genuinely believe Apple cares about our privacy and tried to resist it, hence them being one of the last big companies to join, but this reads like nothing more than a government scripted defence that Apple was forced to post. And of course with Apple's generous tax arrangements the Government has HUGE bargaining power to force Apple to do what it wants. The US government is a corporation after all and these are all private contracts negotiated in secret.

If PRISM is so innocuous then why is it secret? Because the Government doesn't want you to know what they have access to. Scary times.
Edited by s.metcalf - 6/17/13 at 2:44am
post #8 of 83
Lol move the servers out of the US?! You know how much lag that would cause not to mention the cost involved

Quote:
Originally Posted by whatisgoingon View Post

If Apple really wanted to protect it's customers privacy, it would move it's servers out of the US. Or at least move the servers for non-US customers out of the US.
post #9 of 83

I don't believe these figures at all. Everyone is claiming the same number of requests for data. Yet Snowden states that NSA has direct access to data servers.

post #10 of 83
So , search google and it's saved for them to slice, dice, analyze and sell to the higgest bidder or the lowest govt. Ask Siri and she'll never tell.
post #11 of 83

Wait, weren't the erosion of civil liberties justified with the need to catch terrorists and child molesters? You know, the 'really bad' guys? Now we've given up our right to privacy and our rights rest on the sentiment of a corporate legal team and it seems these intrusions in our private lives are not limited to catching the really bad guys anymore.

post #12 of 83

I knew when Apple said "direct access" rather than just "access" they were being sneaky.

post #13 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post

Good on Apple. I still think Apple needs to be a hardware company not a spy agency acting on behalf of the government. The government should do their own dirty work.

 

What do you think Google should do, instead of acting as a spy agency on behalf of the government?

 

I'm asking you because of your posting history that indicates Google is your role model, hypocrisy and all.

post #14 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by btracy713 View Post

Lol move the servers out of the US?! You know how much lag that would cause not to mention the cost involved

 

You are aware that most of Apple's customers are outside the US, I presume, therefore the majority of people are coming from Europe/Asia etc *into* the US to access Apple's servers.  What makes you think that it could not work the other way around?  Is there some inherent attribute of US bandwidth and latency that is somehow superior to everywhere else?  Or are you simply referencing the abysmal average connection speeds for more Americans compared to the rest of the world?

 

As for cost, most of the Datacenters are new, and I'm sure they would have cost less to build, and cost less to run had they decided to put them in China instead.  OK, now they already exist it would be costly, but 4 years ago this would be a different thing.  Not that I am saying that's a good idea, of course...

post #15 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

What do you think Google should do, instead of acting as a spy agency on behalf of the government?

 

I'm asking you because of your posting history that indicates Google is your role model, hypocrisy and all.

 

Without having an opinion on Google one way or another on this particular topic as to which organisations referenced to Prism are most happy to simply hand over data, it is certainly the case that of everyone Google likely has the biggest motherload of useful data because it's *primary business* is in the collection of said data in the first place.   For everyone else (MS with Bing and Yahoo etc to a lesser extent admittedly) this data is simply a secondary byproduct of doing business.  And I was quite amused at the sideways reference to "not collecting a mountain of data" which is clearly a prod at Google.

post #16 of 83
Aye, cutting out the middleman, I quite understand that NsaMessage
post #17 of 83
". And of course with Apple's generous tax arrangements the Government has HUGE bargaining power to force Apple to do what it wants" Can read the otherway round too. I'm thinking of the repatriation of all that money they have tax avoided in so so many countries.
post #18 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

Why do you "still think that"?

Apple is quite obviously not "a spy agency acting on behalf of the government."

Also, the "dirty work" the government is doing is mostly routine law enforcement along with some efforts to stop terrorist plots.

There is not even a suggestion that the "government" is plotting to use clandestine technology to persecute some group of citizens. That's what the banks do, with immunity.

 

Given the government's history of persecuting groups of citizens, I'd say any day now. And individuals are as much at risk as groups, perhaps more.

 

Let's say they aren't even able to look at any data unless the "algorithms" identify it as "suspicious". How long will it take by just random coincidence till some innocent person is "flagged" and has their world turned upside down, you know, like Steven Hatfill.

post #19 of 83
Hey, NSA. I accidentally deleted an important email. Can you send me a copy? ;-)
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post #20 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post

Good on Apple. I still think Apple needs to be a hardware company not a spy agency acting on behalf of the government. The government should do their own dirty work.

It's attitudes like this that show the real issue, no matter what Apple says, some folks will think they are lying. After all why would the newspapers write something that isn't 100% true. They are newspapers after all, they don't deal in rumor and speculation. They never have sources that lie or tell partial truths for a particular agenda. Etc. you can always trust everything you read in the newspapers.
post #21 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by s.metcalf View Post

They still used the qualification "direct access" which is as good as admitting that they allow indirect access (such as to non-Apple backups of the data) to all the information described and more.

They aren't hiding this. They say very clearly WHEN THERE IS A VALID COURT ORDER they provide whatever is requested.
Quote:

If PRISM is so innocuous then why is it secret? Because the Government doesn't want you to know what they have access to. Scary times.

It wasn't secret so much as they don't put up public notices that they asked for the information. Because that would risk their investigations. It's really not that different than in the old days when they would get warrants to tap phones, request your bank records etc.
post #22 of 83
Quote:
We have been authorized to share some of that data, and we are providing it here in the interest of transparency.

 

Transparency, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

 

The above snippet from their response is the most revealing of the entire reply.  Basically the gov't is saying, you can appease your customers by giving them a highly filtered list requests, but don't even think about revealing the damning stuff.

post #23 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


Let's say they aren't even able to look at any data unless the "algorithms" identify it as "suspicious". How long will it take by just random coincidence till some innocent person is "flagged" and has their world turned upside down, you know, like Steven Hatfill.

It's less likely that such a thing would happen these days because they wouldn't name someone until they have their data and know that the person is truly suspect or not. Likely because of what happened with Hatfill which was for the most part paranoid scare games by the media. Just like what the media is doing with Apple etc over this issue. All over a couple of slides taken out of context.
post #24 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ursadorable View Post

Transparency, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

The above snippet from their response is the most revealing of the entire reply.  Basically the gov't is saying, you can appease your customers by giving them a highly filtered list requests, but don't even think about revealing the damning stuff.

Not a shock since some of the data is likely linked to current investigations.
post #25 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post


It's less likely that such a thing would happen these days because they wouldn't name someone until they have their data and know that the person is truly suspect or not. Likely because of what happened with Hatfill which was for the most part paranoid scare games by the media. Just like what the media is doing with Apple etc over this issue. All over a couple of slides taken out of context.

 

Hatfill was persecuted by the FBI because they were convinced he was guilty. Brandon Mayfield was persecuted because they were convinced he was involved in the Madrid bombings. They thought they were following the "evidence", despite the fact that it was bad. The fact that massive amounts of data are being sorted by computers to identify "suspects" increases the likelihood that incidents like these will happen with increasing frequency.

 

Big Data is a Big Problem, and, as we know, having a private company hold it is the same as the government holding it.

post #26 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

What do you think Google should do, instead of acting as a spy agency on behalf of the government?

 

I'm asking you because of your posting history that indicates Google is your role model, hypocrisy and all.

Google is not my role model at all. I mostly hate the way google is allowed to operate and be the only an effective monopoly in the search business. Secondly, my posting history does not at all show that Google is my role model....at all.


Edited by AdonisSMU - 6/17/13 at 5:51am
post #27 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by s.metcalf View Post
.
.... And of course with Apple's generous tax arrangements the Government has HUGE bargaining power to force Apple to do what it wants. ...

 

Uh, yeah, right.  Yet is is GE who pays nothing and their CEO is the Presidents "Jobs Czar."  Nothing to see here...move along.

post #28 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post


It's attitudes like this that show the real issue, no matter what Apple says, some folks will think they are lying. After all why would the newspapers write something that isn't 100% true. They are newspapers after all, they don't deal in rumor and speculation. They never have sources that lie or tell partial truths for a particular agenda. Etc. you can always trust everything you read in the newspapers.

Look, I just don't agree with what Apple is doing at any capacity. Let the government do it's own dirty work without their help at all.

post #29 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by icoco3 View Post

 

Uh, yeah, right.  Yet is is GE who pays nothing and their CEO is the Presidents "Jobs Czar."  Nothing to see here...move along.

Exactly. We need to vote both parties out of office. We need some fresh younger blood running congress and the government. I think the people running our government are just too old for this time period and aren't doing a good job. The establishment parties serve themselves and not the citizens of the United States.

post #30 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post

Google is not my role model at all. I hate google with the notable exception of my hacky gmail account.

 

Unless your account has been hijacked, it's hard to believe that statement.

post #31 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by s.metcalf View Post

They still used the qualification "direct access" which is as good as admitting that they allow indirect access

 

Did you not read the article or statement?

 

The whole PRISM scandal is about direct access to servers... Apple is completely denying that. Furthermore, they go on to say that they hand over data only when there's a court order ... this IS admitting they allow indirect access to some data.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #32 of 83
Actually, "corrections" is ignorant or uninformed. The feds make exactly the same requests of your bank, as well. The banks are also forbidden by law to acknowledge the information program - which includes monthly reports on every account-holder.
post #33 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

 

If the US government a) collects taxes on foreign income and b) operates a global surveillance program, how would your fantasy of a draconian government NOT be able to syphon data from servers owned by a US corporation just because they were, say, installed in France?

 

And do you know that electricity for data centers costs twice as much in Europe as in the US? I'm glad you're not running Apple. You sound as superstitious and capricious in your strategies as the junta running Burma. 

 

"US servers" are quintessentially different from servers in most other western countries in exactly the way we are talking about with this article and discussion.  They are subject to the so-called "Patriot Act" and are available to the US government for scrutiny at almost any time.  Most European countries and Canada will not allow the use of any software in government and education for example, if any part of that software or the data in it is present on American servers.  This is because it cannot be guaranteed to be safe.  

 

Data on servers in Sweden, France and all those other places is not subject to scrutiny by the US secret service.  This is a huge issue for all non-Americans that Americans just don't seem to get. 

post #34 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by whatisgoingon View Post

If Apple really wanted to protect it's customers privacy, it would move it's servers out of the US. Or at least move the servers for non-US customers out of the US.

And which country do you suggest? Most spy even more on it's citizens than the U.S does.
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post #35 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Unless your account has been hijacked, it's hard to believe that statement.

Speaking of hijacked accounts, Twitter accounts get hijacked all the time and I've not yet seen a public outcry for them to fix the vulnerability that's being exploited.
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post #36 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post

Google is not my role model at all. I mostly hate the way google is allowed to operate and be the only an effective monopoly in the search business. Secondly, my posting history does not at all show that Google is my role model....at all.

Google doesn't sell us anything with their search engine so how are they a monopoly? Last I checked Bing is gaining popularity.
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post #37 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

Why do you "still think that"?

Apple is quite obviously not "a spy agency acting on behalf of the government."

Also, the "dirty work" the government is doing is mostly routine law enforcement along with some efforts to stop terrorist plots.

There is not even a suggestion that the "government" is plotting to use clandestine technology to persecute some group of citizens. That's what the banks do, with immunity.

 

 

You are naive. The government is collecting information on every phone all made. For instance, the number making a call, who the number called, and how long the call was. You can tell a whole lot about a person just from that information. The government also revealed yesterday, it can at will listen in to phone calls. As far as Court requests go, you have no idea how many requests are related to terrorism as Apple is not allowed to tell you how many. Google along with Twitter is fighting to have that number revealed. 

 

Companies like AT&T have had a history of just voluntarily giving the government access to its customers information without any Court order. When it does so, it is acting like a spy agency. When it receives a Court Order and it does not fight in Court, it is also capitulating to the government. Google routinely fights with the government over user privacy. Apple should do the same. 

post #38 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


Google doesn't sell us anything with their search engine so how are they a monopoly? Last I checked Bing is gaining popularity.

 

Microsoft was convicted of being a monopoly when it had less than 90 percent of the PC market. In the US, Google has about 70 percent of the search market. Worldwide, Google has over 90 percent in many Countries, especially in Europe. I suspect that Google controls close to 90 percent of mobile advertising in the US. 

 

Moreover, you do not have to sell something to have a monopoly. Google offers a search product. It uses this to sell ads. This product competes with products from Yahoo, Microsoft, along with a few other companies. These also wish to sell ads. 

post #39 of 83

Peopl, do not feel so safe because Apple said they have not been requested to allow the government access, Remember most all of your data goes through the phone companies and they have allowed the government access to their systems. The government also has access to the 7 major Internet service provided whichs moves all the traffic. therefore, if they want to know what you are doing they can monitor you prior to it ever hitting Apple servers. Sending texts and picture and stuff over the internet to apple or facebook or google is not encrypted data, thus very easy to capture and see what you are doing.

 

For those who do not know, all phone systems in service today have back doors in them to allow the government to listen in if they want. Unlike the past when it required the government and police to get phone company people involved, which took days to happen, now they can just connect and monitor as they like. It not like what you see on TV with all the great visuals of pin pointing someone location on a map, but it gives them enough information to so theirs. 

 

Honestly, as people say if you not doing anything wrong why do you car, Also so what if they are collecting information, it is not having the information that is illegal, like knowing how to build a bomb, it is what you do with the information that is illegal. In this case if all the government is doing is using the information to catch terrorist fine, but as we all know, they will use the information for other purposes to which no one know what that will be.

 

Also, the government can be listening and watch anyone they like without court orders, as long as they do not file charges against you using that information without court order then you will never know. This is the piece people are concerned about, they can find out you doing something they do not like via these methods, inform the police to keep an eye on you and if the police then observe your illegal activity then they can arrest you and it required not mention of the illegal information gathering that did to clue them into you.

post #40 of 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by s.metcalf View Post

They still used the qualification "direct access" which is as good as admitting that they allow indirect access (such as to non-Apple backups of the data) to all the information described and more. ....

 

This is incorrect.  "Direct Access" in this case is not the opposite of "Indirect Access."  Saying they "don't allow direct access" only means that the government has to make a formal request for information, "direct access" in the sense meant here, would be just letting the government look at whatever they want, whenever they want.  You know, the way the telecom companies do.  

 

In the case of Apple, you have further protection in that unlike other companies like Google, Facebook, etc. Apple will only give access if the request is formally made and it is a valid and legal request.  They have said so explicitly.  it says so in their user agreements specifically.  

 

Most other companies when faced with a request like this from the government, will simply comply.  The fact that those other companies don't specifically say anything about the legality of the request is your big clue.  There is a big difference between these two stances in that a great deal of the time, lawyers, police officers, and government officials ask for things that they should not have and have no legal right to, but people give in because "they're the cops."

 

A lot of your post sounds extremely paranoid IMO also.  

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