Apple Reveals What it Tells the Feds About You

Two weeks ago, Apple and other major U.S. internet companies denied knowledge of or participation in PRISM, the secret NSA program established in 2007.

Today Apple has released a statement clarifying those remarks and revealing what information it gives to the U.S. government:

AppleFrom 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.


  1. Eric says

    There’s a big problem with any statements like this from any individual or company: under the Patriot Act, they can’t legally tell you if they are giving your information to the government.

    We’ve legislated ourselves into a position where anything any government official or company spokesperson says, even in sworn testimony before Congress, cannot be trusted. The only way we’ll ever get out of this mess is to revoke the Patriot Act and all of that horrible legislation we put through in a panicked rush after 9/11.

  2. Dearcomrade says

    This is another great reason to never store personal information in the “Cloud” or online data centers. While the government can hack into your own PC or even seize it (with a court order), it is far more difficult for them to snoop.

  3. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    All evasion and weasel words… Apple may not store the raw data, but I suspect they let the NSA do so…and the NSA can and would want to decrypt the e-mails themselves anyway for chain-of-custody reasons.

    And the FISA both requires the telecom-providers to lie and conceal their cooperation…and legally-absolves the telecoms from any civil or legal action BY ANY PARTY arising from that cooperation.

  4. anon says

    Just because Apple does not hand over the information does not mean the Feds don’t get it. There are a variety of ways that they acquire data that does not require the cooperation of Apple or other companies.

  5. Steve says

    Considering the fact that Siri can’t identify a damn thing, I tend to believe this statement from Apple.