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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Our business doesn’t depend on collecting personal data – Apple


Our business doesn’t depend on collecting personal data – Apple


Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Apple’s transparency report on governmental data requests assures the company mostly helps investigating criminal offences, such as thefts of Apple products. The company complains of a ‘gag order’ banning disclosure of number and core of such requests.
The report - supposed to give Apple customers a better idea as to under which conditions their personal data can be handed over to government intelligence agencies - calls for more transparency and measures to counter the negative effects of Edward Snowden’s revelations.
Following shocking publications by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Snowden, Apple Inc. suffered a number of accusations that some of its products are dual-purpose.
Just in October, Anonymous hacking group accused Apple’s Touch ID sensor of sending people’s fingerprints directly to the NSA.
So the company, whose name has been mentioned along with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other IT giants in practically all news about the NSA global spying, has rushed to sooth the privacy pains of its customers.
The Apple’s seven-page report on data requests from government bodies covers a relatively short period, the six months from January 1, 2013, to June 30, 2013.
Apple has officially admitted that it cooperates with law enforcement, both in the US and abroad, though it claims it fully controls the process and is capable of denying sharing information with the government.
Apple assures it is not “amassing personal information,” such as location data, Map searches or Siri requests, because this is none of the company’s business. Steve Jobs’ successors have no doubt that“innovative security solutions,” such as the Find My iPhone tracking program and Touch ID fingerprint verification protocol adopted on iPhone 5 make this world “more secure and more convenient.”
The report explains that there are two types of request existing: account requests and device requests. It is the first type’s statistics that US law enforcement prefers to keep secret. The account request means Apple is demanded to share personal information entered by client to an account, whereas a device request is brought in when some kind of an Apple device is stolen or lost and is being searched for.
“The US government does not allow Apple to disclose, except in broad ranges, the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as emails, was disclosed,” the report says, claiming that in the given period of time the company received between 1,000 and 2,000 official US government requests.
"We strongly oppose this gag order," the document said.
“We believe that dialogue and advocacy are the most productive way to bring about a change in these policies, rather than filing a lawsuit against the US government,” the report said, informing that Apple has “filed an Amicus brief at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) in support of a group of cases requesting greater transparency.”
Though the electronics giant complains about the US government’s ‘gag order’ prohibiting it from publicizing the exact number and nature of government data requests, the data presented in the report is quite telling.
The request statistics published in the report’s two charts - account and device requests respectively - reveals that American law enforcement has requested personal data from Apple on a couple of thousand occasions at the most in the first half of 2013. And that during that time in all of the US there were 3,542 cases of Apple devices lost or stolen, totaling 8,605 separate items. However Apple proudly informs that it agreed to co-operate on a mere 3,110 device requests. It is not clear why the company refused to help finding almost two-thirds of the stolen goods.
The statistics for requests outside the US is many times smaller. The largest numbers of account requests, 127 of them, were received from the UK, and the company claims that only in only 37 percent of the cases some information was disclosed. 
“When we receive such a demand, our legal team carefully reviews the order. If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the court order, we challenge it. Only when we are satisfied that the court order is valid and appropriate do we deliver the narrowest possible set of information responsive to the request,”the report says.
Moreover, the company refused to have anything to do with the notorious Patriot Act that enabled surveillance on the US citizens after the 9/11 attacks. 
“Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us,” is specifically stressed in the report.
The first major hit of Edward Snowden’s revelations has been the world learning the fact that America’s National Security Agency has direct access to servers of giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple. 
Though the latest Apple report finally admits the fact that the company does cooperate with the US government agencies on a lawful basis, the document doesn’t contain a single word about the NSA having direct access to company’s databases, an activity for which it wouldn’t have to ask for corporate approval.
While from the very beginning Apple denied any knowledge about such access to its servers existing, it never presented solid proof of its position.