US gov had no “direct access” to our servers, says Apple

Apple is the latest tech titan to release statistics on the number of requests it receives from US law enforcement for access to its information.

In a statement on its website the company revealed that it received between 4,000 and 5,000 legal orders from US law enforcement for customer data from December 2012 to May 2013.

The most common form of request included criminal investigations and national security matters such as from police investigating crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s or hoping to prevent a suicide. It did not specifically mention the NSA or PRISM.

Apple was keen to stress that it only allows government agencies access to its data on receipt of a court order, that it “delivers the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities” and that certain types of information on customers are not stored.

“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,” said Apple on its website.

“Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.”

It was also keen to make it clear again that it does not allow government “direct access” to its servers.

Two weeks ago, the Guardian and The Washington Post reported a PowerPoint presentation that revealed US government surveillance agency the National Security Agency (NSA) had used a programme called PRISM to gain direct access to the servers of many companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook.

Apple is the latest company to divulge information on their involvement with US law enforcement and their role in national security. In the interest of transparency and clearing their names, Facebook and Microsoft both published statements last week saying that they had voluntarily given data to government agencies but denied knowledge of the PRISM programme and direct access.

Both firms released figures on the volume of national security and crime related requests they had received from government. However they are pushing for greater transparency, with Microsoft saying that "what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues."

According to CNET, Google plans to release similar figures on its involvement with government agencies. It has not yet stated when this will be but claims the statistics will be more detailed than those released so far.

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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...