Apple issues update on U.S. NSA and law enforcement orders

Apple Inc. has released the following statement, verbatim:

Update on National Security and Law Enforcement Orders
January 27, 2014

Apple has 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. We believe strongly that our customers have the right to understand how their personal information is being handled, and 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.

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.

Apple is reporting the actual number of requests for information related to law enforcement investigations. Law enforcement requests most often relate to criminal investigations such as robbery, theft, murder, and kidnapping. In addition, Apple is re-reporting all the national security orders we have received, including orders received under FISA and National Security Letters (NSLs), to reflect the new guidelines that allow us 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. We did not receive any orders for bulk data. The number or accounts involved in national security orders in infinitesimal relative to the hundreds of millions of accounts registered with Apple.

Apple reviews each order, whether criminal or under a national security authority, to ensure that it is legally issued and as narrowly tailored as possible. If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the order, we challenge it. Only when we are satisfied that the order is valid and appropriate do we deliver the narrowest possible set of information in response to that the order.

National Security Letters (NSLs), which are often the first step in an investigation, do not require a court order but by law they may not be used to obtain customer content. NSLs are limited to transactional data such as a customer’s contact information. Apple is required by law to comply with these NSLs if we have the information requested.

The information provided below replaces the U.S. data in Apple’s November 5, 2013 Report on Government Information Requests, which details the Account Information Requests and Device Information Requests we have received worldwide from January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013.

Apple: Update on National Security and Law Enforcement Orders January 27, 2014

Source: Apple Inc.

MacDailyNews Take:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

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  1. I think that it is great that Apple is doing this. I was afraid for a moment that Apple would have sold out to our untrustworthy government, but they apparently won’t take no for an answer! Hopefully, in 2016, we can have a much better Congress, but after seeing what has been going on for decades, I highly doubt it.

    1. What can congress do? If any congressman gets too uppity the NSA has a little meeting where they show him the dirt they have on him and wouldn’t it be a shame if somehow this got out…

      That’s what Hoover used to do.

    2. Quick Civics lesson: the NSA is not a part of (nor do they report to) the legislative arm of the government (i.e. congress) They are a part of the executive branch, which means they report to the President.

        1. Yes that’s true but it is really a loophole, a back door not intended to attempt to control the other arms of government. Otherwise congress would control all 3 branches by process of defunding and that was never intended. (though I would agree that the executive branch’s power has become frightening in the last 25 or 30 years and that was never intended (having an all powerful king who could disregard the rule of law) either.

  2. MDN took a quote of Franklin’s and has applied the term “liberty” much more broadly than Franklin did.

    Benjamin was objecting to the Pennsylvania governor’s attempts to limit the legislature’s right of self-governance. The legislature was attempting to fund security along the new western frontier by taxing England’s Penn family’s Pennsylvania estate. The governor (no-doubt feeding from the hand of the Penn family) was repeatedly vetoing the legislation.

    What’s at stake here is is just as important: the ability of law enforcement agencies, without a court order, to find out who a suspected terrorist has been corresponding with.

    Sure… even that amounts to “shock and awe” as regular Americans fancy that it’s “all about them” and that the government is all fascinated with John-boy’s correspondence to his brother about their moonshine still.

    Remember, the US Postal Service now photographs every single envelope as it zooms through sorting equipment and retains that information for law enforcement. There’s no howling and feinting dead away over that unless someone brings it up (like me, here) to make the libertarians jump up and down and howell over that too.

    It’s all a matter of “expectations” and how they change over time.

    I remember watching Lassie back in the early ‘60s. The Martin family members would go to a wall-mounted crank telephone, crank the handle on it, and ask the local switchboard operator—Jenny— to connect them with so-n-so. I remember marveling at the time that ol’ Jenny knew a lot about who was calling who in the area.

    The difference between then and now is one of “expectations.” Back then, we were reminded daily that Jenny was aware of who we were calling and that at any time, law enforcement personnel could ask Jenny if the Martin’s had called a suspect who had stollen all those apple pies.

    Today, people aren’t reminded daily that every single letter they send is photographed and that—if the NSA wants to—they can find out of Bin Laden emailed you on your birthday and inquire if you have any extra plutonium sitting around.

    Get over it. Our executive branch, judicial branch, and legislative branches have worked behind doors to reach carefully crafted (and still evolving) laws covering how to catch asswipes who would like to knock down big buildings with airplanes—or much, much worse.

    That plane that hit the Pentagon? It was supposed to destroy the White House. The one that went down in in Ben’s Pennsylvania field? It was supposed to crash into the Capitol. There are asswipes out there who would destroy tens of millions of Americans this very second if they could get their miserable hands on a nuke. Some religious kook over in the sandbox even gave Bin Laden official permission for that 10,000,000 number, stating that God likes that sort of thing.

    None of this “really really bad stuff” has happened (yet) because we have dedicated military personnel who “stand on walls and say ‘no harm will come to you tonight… not on my watch‘.”

    Get over it. Start using a little imagination of how much liberty will be lost if the U.S. suffers a truly horrific attack.

    1. Yes, just bring our expectations into the the 21st century. We are all just so backward to expect our tights to be protected.

      Everyone “expect” that you are being watched, and don’t be surprised when you receive a message telling you so.

      Also, don’t think that your money belongs to you either. (Many US banks have instituted this policy since last year as well)

      And Greg L, throughout history, governments have used the “it’s for your own good” argument as an excuse to exercise control over their people. That does not make it acceptable, particularly when you live in a country where actions of the government are supposed to have the consent of the governed.

      1. Nowhere in the world critic2, (and certainly not in the U.S.) is it “actions of the government are supposed to have the consent of the governed.”

        The fundamental right (for all civilized peoples, anyway)—and certainly the way it works in the U.S.—is that “Leaders govern with the consent of the governed.”

        If any society tried what you just wrote, nothing would work at all.

        1. Only partly true, Greg. The Consent of the Governed is accompanied by an assumption that what the government does will be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many believe there is ample evidence to that not being the case.

          Sadly, the courts, which were originally tasked with protecting those rights, appear to many of us to have engaged in decisions and interferences antithetical to both the intent and directly stated provisions of the Constitution.

    2. Thanks Greg L you for providing these insights and not employing lame references to quotes or simply having a closed mind about how government works in today’s real world and not in someone’s little mind.

    3. You have good commentary here, Greg. However, the attitude that we should just “get over it” may be beyond what I would like to see. The forgotten parts of our Bill of Rights exist within the 9th and 10th Amendments. Those assign rights not SPECIFICALLY given the the federal government to the states or the People.

      It is within those amendments that rights such as privacy should belong. For whatever questionable reasons, the courts have hung their hats on the 14th Amendment (outside of the defined Bill of Rights, by the way) whose initial purpose was other than a blanket creation of privacy or other rights as determined.

      The penumbra of rights in the 9th and 10th has been ignored.

      It is true that we need some protection from the bad guys in a difficult world. But that protection must not come from a wholesale disregard of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments. That is what has occurred. A good and proper conversation within Congress and among the People as to how to protect our scantily remaining rights and yet provide at least some modicum of protection from the really bad people (those wishing to detonate nuclear devices in our cities, for example) is critical if we want to retain and protect the foundation upon which liberty was established in the US.

      The fact that these things have been continuing, and that there is an argument for allowing them to continue, is no justification for the failure to discuss and approve the process that clearly overrides our stated liberties. Should Congress AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE choose to modify their rights under the Constitution, then so be it. But that opportunity for the PEOPLE to decide what happens in their country has not been provided.

      All who study history recognize this as the road to tyranny. All tyrants in the past had reasons why rights were taken from their people. Some seemed rational at the time. But those led to the deaths of millions and to the subjugation of their peoples. That is the path many of us sense today.

      Let us make the decision to modify our rights in the possible interest of increased security. A unilateral decision elsewhere is not in accordance of the fullness of the rights of the People.

      1. Let me be clearer in the verbiage at the end of my last posting. When I said:
        “Let us make the decision to modify our rights in the possible interest of increased security,” I was not suggesting that we would (necessarily) make a decision to modify our rights. The emphasis is here: “Let US make the decision…” – whatever that decision might be.

  3. This is all fine and dandy, kudos to Apple for the update, but this is only one side of the story, i.e. the requests for by the NSA on law enforcement. What is not really known are the requests by Apple or other companies to the NSA to retrieve data acquired by the NSA in order to maintain a lead by American companies over international allies.

    It has come to light that the NSA is engaged in more than just spying, cyberattacks on other countries like Iran. It has also come to light, unsurprisingly that the NSA is engaged in cyberespionage as indicated by Edward Snowden: “If there is information at Siemens that they [the NSA] think would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security, of the United States, they will go after that information and they’ll take it.”

    It goes to follow that if the NSA is indeed pilfering secrets from other corporations they would be sharing that information with unscrupulous American companies to maintain their competitive edge. I don’t know or think that Apple is involved but it reeks of the high heavens that some American technological companies would be doing that. After all if you abandon the moral high grounds might as well toss all ethics out the window.

    1. Extremely troubling, because National Interest can be arbitrarily defined, even more complexly than National Security. A lot of us feel the time is past when weaselly definitions will suffice to pacify a populace once routinely lulled by material distractions and circuses. At some point in a decaying state, even Senators and Saints begin to join a growing Underground, having recognised their newly minted downtrodden status. Only the sickeningly rich are exempt from these democratic temptations.

      1. Thanks for your post hannahjs. I’ve read it several times and you are spot on, unfortunately. I think at some point, especially in this day and age the ideas of global security and global interest need to be nurtured. True greatness in my opinion arises from helping others raise their standards, instead of hindering others to be above the rest.

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