Apple provides update on National Security Orders and account information requests

NSA data center in Utah

Apple has posted an update to information pertaining to national security and law enforcement orders, confirming that it’s been working closely with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the Department of Justice to “advocate for greater transparency with regard to the national security orders we receive”.

Apple CEO Tim Cook briefly touched on the topic in an interview with ABC’s David Muir, saying the NSA does not have access to Apple’s servers as the snooping agency would have to “cart us out in a box” for that kind of access (those are his exact words)…

The PDF document that was just posted to Apple’s website reiterates Apple’s belief that its customers “have the right to understand how their personal information is being handled”. The information provided replaces Apple’s November 5, 2013 Report on Government Information Requests.

The new guidelines allow Apple to report these orders separate from law enforcement orders, in bands of 250.

“This data represents every U.S. national security order for data about our customers regardless of geography,” Apple states. “We did not receive any orders for bulk data”.

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“We are pleased the government has developed new rules that allow us to more accurately report law enforcement orders and national security orders in the U.S.,” the doc reads.

We work hard to deliver the most secure hardware and software in the world and we will continue to provide our customers with the best privacy protections available.

Personal conversations are protected using end-to-end encryption over iMessage and FaceTime, and Apple does not store location data, Maps searches, or Siri requests in any identifiable form.

‘In any identifiable form’ is the key here.

Online service such as search or mapping depend on some sort of user intelligence to deliver more relevant and accurate results.

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Just like Google claims that any data it has on users is anonymized, Apple too is adamant that it’s not storing any of the personally identifiable information.

That’s unfortunately of little consolation because the NSA has other means to break into your iPhone and there’s nothing you can do to shield yourself from rude intrusions of online privacy.

According to a new report from The New York Times and corroborated by other news agencies, the NSA can obtain data from iOS and Android apps as it travels over the Internet, in real time.

This includes detailed user profile data that advertising firms collect from popular games such as Rovio’s Angry Birds.

Here’s the scary part:

The scale and the specifics of the data haul are not clear. The documents show that the N.S.A. and the British agency routinely obtain information from certain apps, particularly some of those introduced earliest to cellphones.

With some newer apps, including Angry Birds, the agencies have a similar capability, the documents show, but they do not make explicit whether the spies have put that into practice.

Some personal data, developed in profiles by advertising companies, could be particularly sensitive: A secret 2012 British intelligence document says that spies can scrub smartphone apps that contain details like a user’s “political alignment” and sexual orientation.

The trove of intercepted data flowing from mobile apps and being collected by the agencies includes any information created by popular social apps, geo apps, http linking, webmail, MMS and traffic associated with mobile ads, among others.

And this is really unsettling.

The two agencies displayed a particular interest in Google Maps, which is accurate to within a few yards or better in some locations.

Intelligence agencies collect so much data from the app that “you’ll be able to clone Google’s database” of global searches for directions, according to a top-secret N.S.A. report from 2007.

Wow, just wow.

Is there an end in sight to this ongoing snooping scandal?