Apple joins lobby against warrantless data inspection

Consumer technology giant Apple has signed up to a campaign against US government’s abilit to inspect customer data without warrant.

The Digital Due Process campaign, launched by Washington think tank the Center for Democracy and Technology, calls on the government to simplify, clarify, and unify the [Electronic Communications Privacy Act] standards, providing stronger privacy protections for communications and associated data in response to changes in technology and new services and usage patterns". 

One of the Digital Due Process campaign’s specific requirements is that the government should have to "obtain a search warrant based on probable cause before it can compel a service provider to disclose a user’s private communications or documents stored online".

The campaign has relevance for European companies that wish to use cloud computing services from US-based companies, such as Microsoft, Amazon or (all three of which are already signatories to Digital Due Process).

The country’s Patriot Act currently allows the government to inspect any US company’s customer data without warrant if it relates to a national security investigation (although a US magazine recently found that certain Patriot Act powers were used most frequently in drugs-related investigations).

That theoretically contradicts the EU’s Data Protection Directive, which says no company can give customers’ data to a third party without their permission. Last week, Dutch minister of security and justice Ivo Opstelten told the country’s Parliament that the Patriot Act prevents the Dutch government from using IT services from US companies

Privacy and digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded Apple one star in its "Who Has Your Back" campaign, calling on Internet giants to improve their privacy practices. Joining the Digital Due Process campaign meets the EFF’s requirement that web companies "fight for user privacy in Congress".

The EFF’s other demands are that companies "tell users about data demands [from the government]"; "be transparent about government requests" and "fight for user privacy in the courts". So far, web giant Google has pledged to uphold more of these demands than any other targetted web company.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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