Apple to government authorities: ‘Show warrant to get data’

“Apple has unveiled updated guidelines for dealing with government requests for customer information, including a clear demand for search warrants from law enforcers that has won praise from major privacy rights groups,” Benjamin Pimentel reports for MarketWatch. “Apple’s policies posted on the company’s site this week made it clear that it will let its customers know if a government or law enforcement agency has requested information about them, unless constrained by law.”

“For many requests, including for information stored in iCloud, Apple’s famous service in which users store various types of content, including photos, music, contacts and calendars, or ‘transactional activity’ related to the ‘Find MyPhone’ feature used in the iPhone, the company said law enforcers must product a court order or a search warrant,” Pimentel reports. “‘iCloud only stores the content for these services that the customer has elected to maintain in the account while the customer’s account remains active,’ the company said. ‘Apple does not retain deleted content once it is cleared from Apple’s servers. Apple will produce customer content in these categories only in response to a valid search warrant.'”

“Rainey Reitman, activism director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called Apple’s statement ‘a big step forward,'” Pimentel reports. “Apple’s position is consistent with the view of civil rights advocates that authorities need a warrant. Many law enforcement agencies argue that a subpoena is sufficient. Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Apple is being ‘very clear that the information held in the iCloud, in email or PhotoStream is only accessible with a warrant. That’s a very positive and noteworthy thing.'”

Read more in the full article here.

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24 Comments

      1. Steve h., eMo,

        Hate to break the news to you but Apple is a bit late to the game. Google has had a similar policy in place for some time now. Google has even gone a step further by publishing the number of govt requests it has turned down because there was no warrant.

  1. Google to anyone ‘give us some money and you can have anyone’s data’.

    This is great from Apple – still I’d prefer all iCloud docs, data, iMessages etc be encrypted so no one has access to it.

  2. Don’t bet on it. I’m sure it’s smokes and mirrors and Apple will really be granting relatively libre access to data.

    If there’s anything the state and intelligence agencies don’t like, it’s companies that resist pressure. Giving up users’ data is the latest form of new mafia’s “protection money”.
    “Nice lawsuits you got there… Would be a… shame… if you lost them and got slapped with antitrust suits on top of it…”

  3. Its a good sign, so many companies, just like people are ambivalent because they think that, down the road, maybe, just maybe they might be able to “partner” with government for benefit of their business.

    Yeah well, it’s not a partnership and never will be even though its labeled as such, it will always be a big brother; little brother relationship no matter what a few might think.

  4. How difficult is it for people who issue warrants and gag orders to issue THEMSELVES such warrants and gag orders.

    Apple: You ain’t getting any data without a warrant.
    US Gov: Hold on, let me write one up on this here iPad. OK if I send it as PDF?

    1. By definition, a warrant is issued by a judge or other magistrate. The Supreme Court ruled some forty years ago that warrants must be issued by someone who is neutral and impartial, not by anyone connected to the police or prosecutors. Every warrant must be supported by sworn testimony sufficient to lead a reasonable person to believe that there is probable cause authorizing the search. That is what the constitution requires, and no reasonable investigator (there are always lawbreakers) violates the rules because that is perhaps the easiest way to let the guilty go free. Subpoenas can be issued by a prosecutor or grand jury, but enforcing them also requires a judge to find probable cause. So no, the government isn’t grinding out warrants on its iPads.

      The overwhelming majority of state and Federal Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials have no interest in violating people’s privacy, except incidentally to suppressing criminal activity. While there is clearly a point where the government can become over zealous, deficient zeal also has consequences. Ask any survivor of a 9/11 victim if they think the government should stop looking for terrorists and other criminals.

      1. All courts and judges are government controlled. They make you think they are independent by allowing you a win against the government now and then. When it comes to the important stuff the government wins. The Supreme Court is government assigned and is owned by the government.

        So far the courts have been a mere rubber stamp for the NSA.

        Uneducated people like you make me sick.

        1. Governance always involves tradeoffs. Privacy and security require balance. I agree that the NSA had leaned too far towards security, but there is also danger in leaning too far towards privacy. The Founders prohibited searches and seizures without probable cause, but they quite explicitly allowed proper searches.

          The other day, lots of you protested the California kill switch legislation on the grounds that the government should focus on catching and punishing thieves. How do you suggest they do that if they cannot search for and seize the stolen property? How does any nation protect itself from enemies, foreign and domestic, if it cannot conduct an investigation of those threats?

          I gather that it is your position that any government is inherently oppressive. If you feel that way, why don’t you and your anarchist buddies create your own nation without a government? I believe Somalia and several other failed states in Africa are available.

          1. America is one of the biggest paradoxes of the modern world. This is a country that is immensely proud of its system of democracy and claims it to be the greatest democracy in the world. And yet, the same country is so suspicious of and resentful towards its government, even though they themselves elected their own representatives in this government by democratic and free means (the ones they are so proud of).

            If you are so proud of your democratic system, why is it that you are so hateful of the very system you have elected yourselves??

  5. If only OnyX could run scripts and permissions fix on the constitutionality of daily government. The only real government reboot that’s ever been has been the abiding and resolute conviction of the citizenry that government is and always should be of the people and as a republic, the elected are constitutional stewards and thoughtful servants of the great people that live under the protections and principles of that constitution.

  6. I have no doubt the Fed will find some obscure paragraph in the Patriot Act or NDDA they can grasp Tim Cooks testicles with. In the end, Apple will likely be forced to reevaluate their position. Legal or otherwise, the Fed almost always gets their way.

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