Monday, February 09, 2015

Silencing the Alarm: the USA Patriot Act

If you have a smart phone or tablet — an iPhone or iPad, for example — it collects a lot of data about you. So in turn, Apple... also knows a lot about you. And various governments may be interested in that information. That can be unsettling for some customers, so in 2013, Apple started issuing a “Transparency Report” every six months or so. As Apple explained in its first report..., the document is designed to inform Apple’s customers about “the requests we [Apple] receive from governments seeking information about individual users or devices.” Shortly thereafter, Apple offers a caveat: “We have reported all the information we are legally allowed to share.” Basically, there are some government requests that Apple can’t tell us about.

Which is why the second to last line of the Transparency Report is so interesting. It reads, matter-of-factly:

Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

For context, if you head over to Wikipedia, you’ll find that Section 215 has a very specific feature which makes Apple’s disclosure somewhat odd:

This section of the PATRIOT Act is controversial because the order may be granted ex parte [without the other party present to object -- this is very rare in the U.S.], and once it is granted — in order to avoid jeopardizing the investigation — the order may not disclose the reasons behind why the order was granted.

Read more at Now I Know

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