Apple Explains How It Handles Government Requests Following PRISM Scandal

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Apple has issued a statement which explains its commitment to customer privacy and how it handles government requests for data following the PRISM scandal. The Cupertino company has reiterated that it did not know about the PRISM program until June 6 when it was first contacted by the media, and that it does not provide government agencies with direct access to its servers.

Any government agency that wants Apple to reveal customer data must first obtain a court order, Apple says, and even then they do not get direct access to Apple’s servers. All requests go through Apple, and there are a lot of them. In an effort to be transparent about how it works with the government, Apple has requested permission to report how many requests it has received and how it handles them.

“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,” the company said in a statement on Monday. “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,” the statement continued.

Apple adds that regardless of the circumstances, all requests for data from the government are evaluated by Apple’s Legal team, and only if appropriate, “the narrowest possible set of information” is passed back to the authorities. Apple insists it doesn’t give away information it doesn’t need to disclose, and it even refuses requests for data it sees “inconsistencies or inaccuracies” in a request.

“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,” the company said.

As an example, Apple notes that its iMessage and FaceTime servers are protected by “end-to-end” encryption, and that only the sender and receiver can see and read their conversations. Apple cannot decrypt that data, it says, so neither Apple or the government is able to see it.

“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,” Apple’s statement concludes.

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  • Joel Waxman

    I personally don’t mind the Government listening into my conversations or Internet, as I have nothing to hide. The eavesdropping has already prevented attacks, so loosing some freedom is worth the safety of the people.

  • Gregory Wright

    I’m with you but I believe we are in the minority on many of these tech forums.

  • Adrayven

    I personally don’t mind the Government listening into my conversations or Internet, as I have nothing to hide. The eavesdropping has already prevented attacks, so loosing some freedom is worth the safety of the people.

    In a perfect world, sure.. where police and politicians are completely honest and leaks don’t happen? ahh.. yea.. keep dreaming.

    Such info can easily go viral quick.. It gets posted to youTube or Facebook.. then someone’s personal information gets posted. While they were completely legal, suddenly finds themselves the subject of everyones ‘review’ of judgment? Personal finical data, or hell, loose or have stolen CC numbers (happened a few times now)..

    I simply don’t trust them to be honest or to not leak anything. They’ve proven time and again they can be bought, have personal agendas, and to be very human. My finical info, my life, is mine and I’ve no interest to hand that over w/o my full consent and knowledge.

  • rwmcgrann

    I understand where your coming from…but really where do you draw the line? Each administration has taken greater steps toward privacy invasion with no real signs of ever taking a step backward. I think we will continue to see the government get more aggressive about invading its citizens privacy.

  • Gregory Wright

    I understand where your coming from…but really where do you draw the line?

    That’s the dilemma is it not. The what ifs and the possibilities are always part of a formula. The best you can hope for is that government has a system of controls to police itself. I believe those controls are in place. We have the Senate Sub Committee on Intelligence http://goo.gl/uFMQs whom the intelligence agencies must report their present and ongoing activities; we have the FISA court, http://goo.gl/KndpB whom the intelligence agencies must get the approval before conducting any intelligence gathering in its area of responsibility; and we have our laws that govern areas not covered by the first two. So far, all that has been reported is the government actually gathering intelligence that it is allowed by law to gather. For some, this revelation is the biggest news ever. A scandal, not at all. One might not like it or has his or her own interpretation of the Constitution whether the governments activities are permitted under the Constitution. But, scandalous, Please!

    Of course, the other option is for the government to do nothing and pray for the best.

  • Silverrune

    I understand where your coming from…but really where do you draw the line? Each administration has taken greater steps toward privacy invasion with no real signs of ever taking a step backward. I think we will continue to see the government get more aggressive about invading its citizens privacy.

    You draw the line when they are violating our privacy, it has not been proven when/if this information has foiled an attack. The leak has been said to be “The tip of the ice burg” by some politicians with inside information. The thing that is destroying the US government is MONEY. The bribes they get from corporations and the rich for more tax breaks and lax regulations. Wolf-PAC.com

  • Silverrune

    I understand where your coming from…but really where do you draw the line? Each administration has taken greater steps toward privacy invasion with no real signs of ever taking a step backward. I think we will continue to see the government get more aggressive about invading its citizens privacy.

    You draw the line when they are violating our privacy, it has not been proven when/if this information has foiled an attack. The leak has been said to be “The tip of the ice burg” by some politicians with inside information. The thing that is destroying the US government is MONEY. The bribes they get from corporations and the rich for more tax breaks and lax regulations. Wolf-PAC.com

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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