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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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[s] 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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 86
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,772member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 86
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,234member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 86
    Good Guy Apple.
  • Reply 4 of 86
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 86
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,234member

    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. 

  • Reply 6 of 86
    s.metcalfs.metcalf Posts: 870member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 86
    Lol move the servers out of the US?! You know how much lag that would cause not to mention the cost involved

    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.
  • Reply 8 of 86


    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.

  • Reply 9 of 86
    customtbcustomtb Posts: 336member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 86
    emrulemrul Posts: 26member


    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.

  • Reply 11 of 86


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

  • Reply 12 of 86
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,563member

    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.

  • Reply 13 of 86
    stuffestuffe Posts: 391member

    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...

  • Reply 14 of 86
    stuffestuffe Posts: 391member

    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.

  • Reply 15 of 86
    Aye, cutting out the middleman, I quite understand that NsaMessage
  • Reply 16 of 86
    ". 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.
  • Reply 17 of 86
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,563member

    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.

  • Reply 18 of 86
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Hey, NSA. I accidentally deleted an important email. Can you send me a copy? ;-)
  • Reply 19 of 86
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,198member
    adonissmu wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 86
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,198member
    s.metcalf wrote: »
    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.

    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.
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