Apple posts open letter regarding PRISM accusations and customer privacy

By , Jun 17, 2013

asian apple store

Apple has just issued a statement regarding its customer privacy policy, following accusations that it is involved in a US government-run PRISM program that offers up user data without warrant. It’s already commented on the situation, but it obviously felt it needed to be more clear.

Tonight the company posted an open letter to its website entitled ‘Apple’s Commitment to Customer Privacy.’ The letter reiterates that Apple knew nothing about the so-called PRISM program, and offers insight into its relationship with the government and what it means for users…

Like other companies that have been accused of PRISM involvement, Apple says that it asked the government for permission to report how many requests it receives related to national security and how it handles them. And apparently it received clearance, because it has shared the following:

“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. “

The letter goes on to say that Apple places a priority on protecting its customers’ personal data, and that it doesn’t collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about them. For example, it says that data pertaining to iMessage, FaceTime, Map searches and Siri requests isn’t stored.

Earlier this month, NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked a number of presentation slides that outlined a secret government program for warrant-less user data mining called PRISM. The slides highlighted 9 high profile tech companies, including Google and Apple, as willing participants.

Most of the companies have issued firm denials of their involvement in such a program, and have pushed for more transparency in government-ordered user data requests. Last week, Microsoft said it received over 6000 requests in the last 6 months, and Facebook saw as many as 19,000.

You can read Apple’s full open letter on the topic here, otherwise we’ve embedded it below for your convenience.

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.

Thoughts?

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • sambuzzlight

    yeah okay

  • :)

    BS. They were all in on it and Apple is trying to save face now they got caught with their pants down.

    • sl0wCydia

      You really think Samsung doesn’t do it

      • john

        he didnt say that he thought so, did he? Get your facts straight fanboy.

      • Mykel Monroe

        John, stop being a dick.

      • sl0wCydia

        You call me a fanboy when you have no idea. If you only knew……

    • Maxim∑

      Ok. So a document was leaked a couple weeks before stating that it was impossible to decrypt iMessage. That’s was before we heard about PRISM. The way iOS works cryptographically would require the NSA to have physical access of the device in order to decrypt certain things. Apple randomly generates keys which are permanently placed on the hardware not software

      • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

        Lol where are your proofs that this isn’t just what the NSA wants you to believe fanboy? It’s sheeples like you that keep encouraging these freedom-takeaway acts; no reasoning, no questioning, just blindly accepting what the herd master tells you….

      • Maxim∑

        Search “iOS security” on google… The document is directly from
        Apple and the iMessage document was from the DEA not NSA

      • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

        “The document is directly from Apple”

        Bahahahahaha, just re-read that comment of yours and do some deductive reasoning. What makes you think Apple, another money-oriented business, would openingly post negative details about their software? You were probably one of those who blindly accepted their scam of Macs being immune to virus/malware.

        Regarding who it came from, you actually believe that the DEA and NSA have no interrelationship? Seriously, what the f**k are you sheeples smoking….how ignoramus can you get.

    • shar

      the key sentence was “our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request”, which means as long as they can ask legally, we’ll give them everything we have on you :)

    • Sentry

      Please read the facts as you clearly don’t know how the system they had in place worked.

  • iapplestuffs

    hey guys !
    I am registering UDID to Apple Developer account for $15USD each device for IOS 7 BETA. Once your UDID is registered then you can update to ios 7 beta without any problem and your iphone will be activated. You will enjoy full features of IOS 7 beta. If your interested then inbox me or you can email me too (iapplestuffs@gmail.com). Thanks…

    • Jason Duong

      I hope your developer account gets suspended. Muahahahaha.

      • Leviscus Tempris

        Yeah. I’m not so sure about any developer account that isn’t going through apple themselves. Besides you can get iOS 7 without one. Personally I’m going to wait until all the bugs are fixed.

      • iapplestuffs

        it won’t be ! :P
        Apple allows developer to add UDID. so its legit until i leak firmwares. Which i don’t.

  • pauleebe

    WHO CARES? Do you REALLY have anything to HIDE? They don’t care about your stupid sexts or porn usage. It’s to be used to save lives.

    • Alberto M.

      Can I have your email address and password then? You don’t have anything to hide, correct? While you’re at it I’ll take your bank account info as well.

      • pauleebe

        Actually no, I don’t. My personal email is pretty boring and full of just friends or family related emails.

        Also, if you ever filed an electronic tax return (if you are from any modern part of the country), the government already has your bank account info.

        Get real. Apple in or out of the picture, the government already has access to this info.

    • Jason Duong

      “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Bejamin Franklin, 1755.

      • pauleebe

        Yea. You’re right, we should be living by legislation from almost 300 years ago.

        So while we’re on the topic, marriage inequality, black and female citizens lacking rights, and the right to bear assault rifles to shoot up schools, should also be code of the land.

        Oh wait …

        As with technology, failure to adapt to the changing times results in extinction. If you think we should live word by word from our founding fathers, then you are sorely mistaken.

      • Jason Duong

        Then you should disregard the constitution for whats it worth, since it was written in 1787 and has not been adopted for modern society, because who needs freedom of speech anymore?

      • pauleebe

        Right because our modern government isn’t corrupt at all, and surely everyone is treated equally under the law.

      • Jason Duong

        At least the NSA spies on everyone equally…

  • seyss

    all statements from the targeted companies are void since they are forbidden to even disclosure the PRISM thing

  • Evad3_Me

    The “no one can read iMessages” is such bullshit in my eyes. I don’t care what Apple or DEA say, I strongly believe not just our government, all the governments access this information.

    Them openly stating that is just a way to get the millions of drug dealers, users, terrorists, maybe even some security freaks etc. to start using iPhones so they sell more, and then rat these guys out.