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Privacy group lauds Apple initiatives to protect user data from government requests

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
In a privacy report covering major tech companies' policies toward government data requests, digital rights advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) awarded Apple a perfect six-stars after rating the firm in the doldrums for the past three years.


Source: EFF


According to the "Who Has Your Back" report published on Thursday, Apple earned credit in all six categories measured by EFF, including requiring warrants for content; informing users about data requests; publishing transparency reports; publishing law enforcement guidelines; fighting for user rights in courts; and fighting for user rights in Congress.

"Apple's rating is particularly striking because it had lagged behind industry competitors in prior years, earning just one star in 2011, 2012, and 2013," the EFF writes. "Apple shows remarkable improvement in its commitments to transparency and privacy."

Aside from the self-explanatory requirement of warrants for user data, the EFF notes that Apple now promises to inform users when the government makes such requests. Law enforcement agencies may force Apple to withhold the information from customers only if a correct court order is furnished.

Apple outlined its legal process guidelines for U.S. law enforcement agencies in a new webpage that went online last week. The publication is also one of the measurements used by the EFF in rating a protective company.

As for fighting in court, the EFF points to Apple's 2014 transparency report:

If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the court order, we challenge it and have done so in the past year.


Finally, Apple is a member of the Reform Government Surveillance Coalition, which the EFF says is a sign that the company opposes mass surveillance. According to the coalition's tenets, government policy should allow only targeted data requests that are lawful and made known to the user.
post #2 of 14

I was impressed, until I saw that Google (yikes), Facebook, Yahoo, and some others also got a perfect rating. Not that impressive anymore. 

 

Although this is laudable:

 

"Apple's rating is particularly striking because it had lagged behind industry competitors in prior years, earning just one star in 2011, 2012, and 2013," the EFF writes. "Apple shows remarkable improvement in its commitments to transparency and privacy."

post #3 of 14
Kudos to Apple! There weren't many perfect scores given out and it's good to see Apple among the top. Looking at the scores over previous years, they may be the most improved as well.
post #4 of 14

The Washington Post story about this focuses on Snapchat only getting one star out of 6, and then says "Nine companies received all six stars this year, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo."  The other 5 companies with 6/6 and not worthy of a mention (in the story or the teaser): Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Sonic.net, Twitter, and the most valuable company in the world.  One could say that they didn't call out Apple because it's not primarily an Internet company but then why is Microsoft listed and not Twitter.  Perhaps it's because no one cares about Apple (yeah, right).  Hard not to see this as an intentional slight.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/05/15/why-privacy-advocates-say-you-shouldnt-trust-snapchat-to-have-your-back-online/

post #5 of 14
The fact alone that the EFF has these awards in place is great. Now tech companies have a benchmark to work against, and it's one that can be improved over the years. For example I'd like to see some scores for hack-proofing and pervasive encryption.

If Google and Facebook also got perfect scores - great! It's not about "winning" here. All these companies should be expected to protect their user's privacy and the more do it the better. Google in particular has done a lot to protect data - note that Google is in a bit of a weird position. On the one hand, they want to keep all user data, because that is how they make money - they use your data and, indirectly, sell that to advertisers. But on the other hand they sure as hell don't want anyone else get their hands on that data, and so they protect it, and will fight to protect it.

What I want to start seeing at Apple is full client side encryption for everything on iCloud. Apple is in a unique position to offer actually secure storage of data - if Apple doesn't know what's on their servers, then it's also safe from anyone asking Apple for it or hacking Apple's servers. You can't tell what you don't know. Apple does not profit user data, nor does it sell it for advertising.
post #6 of 14
"... to protect user data protection..." ???
post #7 of 14
" Apple now promises to inform users when the government makes such requests"

Only problem is that government does not need to make any request to read and collect users data since they have direct access to servers of all major digital companies.
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post

The Washington Post story about this focuses on Snapchat only getting one star out of 6, and then says "Nine companies received all six stars this year, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo."  The other 5 companies with 6/6 and not worthy of a mention (in the story or the teaser): Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Sonic.net, Twitter, and the most valuable company in the world.  One could say that they didn't call out Apple because it's not primarily an Internet company but then why is Microsoft listed and not Twitter.  Perhaps it's because no one cares about Apple (yeah, right).  Hard not to see this as an intentional slight.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/05/15/why-privacy-advocates-say-you-shouldnt-trust-snapchat-to-have-your-back-online/

And who owns the Washington Post? And how are Amazon's ethical and environmental credentials? Quite.
"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post

The Washington Post story about this focuses on Snapchat only getting one star out of 6, and then says "Nine companies received all six stars this year, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo."  The other 5 companies with 6/6 and not worthy of a mention (in the story or the teaser): Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Sonic.net, Twitter, and the most valuable company in the world.  One could say that they didn't call out Apple because it's not primarily an Internet company but then why is Microsoft listed and not Twitter.  Perhaps it's because no one cares about Apple (yeah, right).  Hard not to see this as an intentional slight.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/05/15/why-privacy-advocates-say-you-shouldnt-trust-snapchat-to-have-your-back-online/

Negative Apple news sells. Positive ones don't. Negative news gets the iHaters foaming at the mouth.
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post
 

I was impressed, until I saw that Google (yikes), Facebook, Yahoo, and some others also got a perfect rating. Not that impressive anymore. 

 

Although this is laudable:

 

"Apple's rating is particularly striking because it had lagged behind industry competitors in prior years, earning just one star in 2011, 2012, and 2013," the EFF writes. "Apple shows remarkable improvement in its commitments to transparency and privacy."

 

I'm waiting to find that this privacy group's major source of income is "stamps of approval."

post #11 of 14

"Wow, this stamp here says; 'Dolphin Safe!'"

 

Looks at can; "You're right, I can't see any dolphin from here. It's a good thing we didn't buy that other product without the Dolphin Safe sticker. Oh look, the label comes from; 'Japan Super Credible Stamp, Holding Co.' Sounds good to me!"

post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by kovacm View Post

" Apple now promises to inform users when the government makes such requests"

Only problem is that government does not need to make any request to read and collect users data since they have direct access to servers of all major digital companies.


Tim Cook has said the government does not and will not have direct access to Apple's servers. Apple's policy is to comply with government requests when legally required, which includes some requests Apple will be legally prohibited from disclosing.

 

The government also covertly intercepts network traffic but if everyone encrypts their data it will prevent or slow down and raise the cost of surveillance.

post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by orthorim View Post


What I want to start seeing at Apple is full client side encryption for everything on iCloud. Apple is in a unique position to offer actually secure storage of data - if Apple doesn't know what's on their servers, then it's also safe from anyone asking Apple for it or hacking Apple's servers. You can't tell what you don't know. Apple does not profit user data, nor does it sell it for advertising.

Lavabit tried that and look what happened.
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by kovacm View Post

" Apple now promises to inform users when the government makes such requests"

Only problem is that government does not need to make any request to read and collect users data since they have direct access to servers of all major digital companies.

I don't think that's true.
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