Surveillance firm says Apple is 'phenomenal' for law enforcement

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in General Discussion
Secret recordings of a surveillance firm's presentation show how much iCloud data Apple surrenders to law enforcement with a warrant -- though it's Google and Facebook that can track a suspect to within three feet.




PenLink is a little-known firm from Nebraska which earns $20 million annually from helping the US government track criminal suspects. PenLink also sells its services to local law enforcement - and it's from such a sales presentation that details of iCloud warrants has emerged.

According to Forbes, Jack Poulson of the Tech Inquiry watchdog attended the National Sheriff's Association winter conference. While there, he secretly recorded the event.

During the presentation, PenLink's Scott Tuma described how the company works with law enforcement to track users through multiple services, including the "phenomenal" Apple with iCloud.

Apple is open about what it does in the event of a suboena from law enforcement. It's specific about how it will not unlock iPhones, for instance, but it will surrender information from iCloud backups that are stored on its servers.

"If you did something bad," said Tuma, "I bet you I could find it on that backup."

Tracking people to real-world locations

Tuma also says that in his experience, it's been possible to find people's locations through different services, although not through iCloud.

"[Google] can get me within three feet of a precise location," he said. "I cannot tell you how many cold cases I've helped work on where this is five, six, seven years old and people need to put [the suspect] at a hit-and-run or it was a sexual assault that took place."

It's also possible for law enforcement and firms like PenLink which help them, to get location data from Facebook and Snapchat. Reportedly, Facebook will report a suspect's location to within between 60 feet and 90 feet.

Snapchat has begun to provide location details accurate to within 15 feet. However, Snapchat also limits requests, releasing information to any one law enforcement agency around four times per day.

Tuma reports that the various services give access to data in different ways. Facebook, for instance, provides a portal where officials can log in and download the files. However, if the official investigator does not re-login every hour, they are locked out.

"This is how big a pain in the ass Facebook is," said Tuma.

This is one case where the use of PenLink to gather this information has a clear benefit. PenLink can automate the process of logging in to Facebook's portal.

The report says that the amount of data going from Facebook, Google, and others to the police is substantial. For example, one search warrant seen by the publication resulted in 27,000 pages of information from one man's account on Facebook.

Tuma does not believe that access to information is going to decrease. Firms that withheld information from the police would be unable to present that data to advertisers.

"I always call BS on it for this reason right here," Tuma said. "Google's ad revenue in 2020 was $182 billion."

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    ronnviclauyycbageljoeyAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 19
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,057member
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    ronnviclauyycAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 19
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,075member
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 

    Kinda defeats the purpose of some warrants. Many grand jury and/or criminal investigations take a lot more than "90 days" to complete and all you would do is tip off the person being investigated.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 19
    rob53 said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    A legal order or warrant is only required if the company doesn’t want to voluntarily cooperate. If they do want to voluntarily cooperate they can provide law enforcement any information they have on you just as if you were on the street and witnessed an incident involving someone else.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,354member
    Apple's backbone is as flimsy as any other Globalized corporation that is more than willing to appease Governmental encroachments. 

    It doesn't botther me too much because it's their service,  if I have a problem with it I'll move to more secure technologies.  
    williamlondonjcs2305
  • Reply 6 of 19
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,799member
    It's a good thing most criminals are stupid.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 19
    normmnormm Posts: 653member
    Apple's backbone is as flimsy as any other Globalized corporation that is more than willing to appease Governmental encroachments. 
    The only legal way to avoid giving information required by a subpoena is to not have it.  That is what most big companies do, and is why Apple avoids sending a lot of confidential info to their servers.  Apple has pushed back hard against requests by police and FBI to unlock phones, even back when they could have done so by hacking the hardware.  They have certainly strongly resisted adding any back door to their encryption and have been very good on privacy, which also limit what governments can find out.
    ronnmike1viclauyycAlex_Vbaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 19
    rob53 said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    A legal order or warrant is only required if the company doesn’t want to voluntarily cooperate. If they do want to voluntarily cooperate they can provide law enforcement any information they have on you just as if you were on the street and witnessed an incident involving someone else.
    NO!!!!!! 

    The Constitution requires a warrant where the government must show probably cause. There are exigent circumstances that allow warrantless searches and seizures but those are disfavored. 
    viclauyycAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 19
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,075member
    larryjw said:
    rob53 said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    A legal order or warrant is only required if the company doesn’t want to voluntarily cooperate. If they do want to voluntarily cooperate they can provide law enforcement any information they have on you just as if you were on the street and witnessed an incident involving someone else.
    NO!!!!!! 

    The Constitution requires a warrant where the government must show probably cause. There are exigent circumstances that allow warrantless searches and seizures but those are disfavored. 
    No!!!!!

    The warrant compels them to turnover information if they didn't want to. It can always be voluntarily given.
    Think about it, is a warrant required for witnesses to voluntarily give information or testify? Absolutely not.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Apple's backbone is as flimsy as any other Globalized corporation that is more than willing to appease Governmental encroachments. 

    It doesn't botther me too much because it's their service,  if I have a problem with it I'll move to more secure technologies.  
    You know all company need to follow the law they are operating on. If you don’t like it, make congress to change the law. 
    netroxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,169member
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    So give criminal suspects a heads up that they are being surveilled? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 19
    rob53 said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    If you give information to a company, they can share what you’ve given them. No different than if I called up a friend and said “I’m at the parking lot on X Street.” If the police go ask my friend where I was, they are free to tell the police what I said.

    If you don’t want your information shared, don’t share it. Fortunately, to the chagrin of less scrupulous companies that want to vacuum up your data, Apple makes it easy to prevent sharing information you don’t want to share. Like location data. When Facebook asks for permission to see your location, say No!
    chris-netwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 19
    rob53 said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    A legal order or warrant is only required if the company doesn’t want to voluntarily cooperate. If they do want to voluntarily cooperate they can provide law enforcement any information they have on you just as if you were on the street and witnessed an incident involving someone else.
    Exactly. I find it so odd that so many people don’t seem to understand that Apple owns the iCloud servers and can do whatever it wants with that information. You own the content of whatever is on your phone because it is your device but iCloud is not your device.

    Just like when you buy music or a movie from iTunes. You own it as long as it’s on your personal device, but if you only have a copy in iCloud, then you don’t really own it. So if a song or movie is no longer available in iTunes for example, then you could lose that content. That’s why it’s smart to always download everything and keep a backup.
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 19
    Apple's backbone is as flimsy as any other Globalized corporation that is more than willing to appease Governmental encroachments. 

    It doesn't botther me too much because it's their service,  if I have a problem with it I'll move to more secure technologies.  
    Which is???
    There are so many sweepingly broad characterizations here, that you could drive an ocean liner through it.
    But I guess that is what trolls do.
    Can you say? Hit and Run
    edited February 26 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 19
    How many warrants are served to iCloud?
    in comparison to the information sold to advertisers??
    Sorry, but this article throws the baby out with the bath water.
    edited February 26 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 19
    rob53 said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    A legal order or warrant is only required if the company doesn’t want to voluntarily cooperate. If they do want to voluntarily cooperate they can provide law enforcement any information they have on you just as if you were on the street and witnessed an incident involving someone else.
    Personal data of clients should not be given freely; the providing of data should be based only on a warrant issued by a judge who can attest that the law enforcer has a legal right to ask for that data.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 19
    rob53 said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    If any of this is done without a legal order from a judge I want to know what law(s) is being broken or what laws allow them to monitor a free society the way this article is mentioning. I agree with your comment and I don’t want to have to file a FOIA to try and get it. This isn’t Nazi Germany, Russia or any other country that’s afraid of their citizens. 
    A legal order or warrant is only required if the company doesn’t want to voluntarily cooperate. If they do want to voluntarily cooperate they can provide law enforcement any information they have on you just as if you were on the street and witnessed an incident involving someone else.
    Apple owns the iCloud servers and can do whatever it wants with that information. You own the content of whatever is on your phone because it is your device but iCloud is not your device.
    That's like saying a landowner can do whatever he wants with the clothes a renter has in his closets...
    chris-netwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 19
    lkrupp said:
    chris-net said:
    The people who’s info is accessed should be told who accessed it, when, for what reason & under what authority. If doesn’t have to be real time, maybe a 90 day delay between access and notification. 

    I think people will be much more mindful what they publish once they know they’ve been snooped on. 
    So give criminal suspects a heads up that they are being surveilled? 
    no, if there is some criminal investigation then there should be some judicial process that can extend that time out longer than 3 months where necessary. If you've been investigated but nothing came of it then you should still be told that you've been investigated. It may be enough to stop some from going further into crime if they are on the fringes.

    If you think that your data has not been examined or analysed by the state in connection to nefarious things then you are very naive. The truth is they have not been compelled to notify you so you have no idea what they have and have not looked at.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 19
    rorschachai said:
    If you give information to a company, they can share what you’ve given them. No different than if I called up a friend and said “I’m at the parking lot on X Street.” If the police go ask my friend where I was, they are free to tell the police what I said.

    If you don’t want your information shared, don’t share it. Fortunately, to the chagrin of less scrupulous companies that want to vacuum up your data, Apple makes it easy to prevent sharing information you don’t want to share. Like location data. When Facebook asks for permission to see your location, say No!
    Unfortunately you are wrong from a global perspective. The ability of a company to freely share your information is dependent on your citizenship and the laws imposed on the handling of your date by that country on all companies that handle your data - similar to how US citizens financial interactions come under US regulations globally.

    So a company that holds an EU (or UK) citizen’s data cannot share that data with anyone unless the company clearly defines the exact ways and means with which that data can be shared and with whom. A simple read of the T&Cs for iCloud (at least here) shows that information will only be shared with law enforcement upon production of a warrant or court order.
    watto_cobra
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