For critics of cited “conspiracy theorists” they may just be tasting their own foot today due to a report released by Apple. The controversial government security agency, the NSA and other international agencies, had previously side-stepped questions regarding obtaining consumer information from technology companies. Yet, the data collection centers of the NSA continued to grow, some as large as several city blocks. Apple took to their site to release the information of the government information requests to the public.
In releasing the report, Apple states consumers have the right to know how their information is handled. Unfortunately as written by the tech giant, the U.S. government has instilled orders not disclose specifics and only generalizations. In mid-September, Google, Facebook, Apple and several more private companies submitted a petition to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). In this petition the companies demanded the right to publish information about the requests with their customers.
What does the information released to the public mean? The specific PDF report is linked at the end of this article. A brief review shows a darker intent when one considers the requests from the U.S. government, and partnering governing agencies within the past six months alone:
- The government requested private user information for over 2,000 accounts.
- In addition, the report shows a startling data request on over 36,000 mobile devices.
A majority of the requests stemmed from the United States. Other countries demanding information stemmed from Spain, the UK, Australia, Italy and several others such as Russia.
- Apple only permitted a release of that information on half of the requests.
- Apple implores they have never received an order under the listed Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The company advises its consumers they would heartily combat any such order.
Considering Apple seems vehement on releasing information, many are questioning why even half of the requests were fulfilled. Apple advises there were reasons pertaining to law and legal matters that forced the release. The requests were on common items that would be released by any company, suggests Apple, including the following:
- Cases involving missing persons and children.
- Investigations for robbery, kidnapping or suicide prevention.
In honoring the requests received from the government agencies, Apple did disclose the agencies would demand the following information in relation to:
- iTunes and iCloud account information.
- Name and addresses attached to the accounts and devices.
- Apple states only in rare cases would they release stored photos or email messages.
Apple assures that while the device requests information seems stunning, most of the requests branched from customers who filed police reports. Apple consistently implores throughout the report they have no interest in collecting consumer information. Is this a case of “methinks, doth protest too much?” Apple also states they do not house information from iMessage, FaceTimes, Maps or Siri requests.
Turning to the public determines a grim response from the dedicated base of techies to Apple and beyond. Trey H.L. replied quickly to the story submitted for review:
Okay so they are stating they do not collect information on Maps or Siri? Yet they were able to provide photos and email content? By what other method outside of housing the information? I’d like to see their own storage databases to determine what level of privacy we are actually allotted. This makes me feel like slamming my iPhone into the sea, but what’s the point? Hell, they have all my information now.
Cecile M. countered the argument, standing up for Apple and the ability to disclose the information:
This was a total water cooler moment this afternoon for us at work. Sure, Apple was a bit late in delivering the 4-1-1 but I give them mad props for doing so. I would love to see a more detailed report or letters to consumers affected, but overall they did inform us and I can appreciate that.
The report is generalized and not specific. While it alludes to releasing data requests, it does little else to ease the frustrated response of many consumers who want specifics. The requests mentioned common crimes or situations but millions more want to know what other items created the request. Apple also wants to deliver the information to their consumers and is in process of demanding a further release. The government data requests has been reported to the public by Apple. What do you make of the report?
Written by Angelina Bouc