We are all aware (or at least we should be) that our telecom providers are handing over our data to the police when necessary. Well have you ever wondered just how much and what it takes to get that data? Apple posted their new guidelines describing what data the company can provide to law enforcement and the processes for requesting that data.
The document breaks it down into two basic types of data: information stored on Apple’s servers and information stored locally on iOS devices. I have outlined the kinds of data and how they can be obtained in a chart below.
Essentially anything you’ve backed up to or stored on iCloud is available for Apple to provide to law enforcement, including connection logs and IP addresses you’ve used. Additionally a lot of the data associated with your Apple ID is available as well. Therefore, any information you’re providing Apple is available for them to pass along. This is something to consider when deciding if or what to back up on iCloud. You may want to avoid backing up sensitive company data or private information on iCloud. Some information cannot be avoided, such as anything associated with your Apple ID.
Can they access data on my iOS device???
Yes. Apple can bypass security passcodes on our iOS devices to extract “certain categories of active data,” though it apparently cannot bypass that protection entirely. If provided with a valid search warrant, Apple can hand over SMS messages, pictures and videos, contacts, audio recordings, and your phone’s call history, but it can’t access e-mails, calendar entries, or information from third-party applications. Devices must be running iOS 4 or newer, must be “in good working order,” and must be provided directly to Apple’s headquarters along with an external storage drive twice the size of the iOS device’s internal storage.
Will I know if this is happening?
Maybe. The guidelines state that Apple will “notify its customers when their personal information is being sought in response to legal process except where providing notice is prohibited by the legal process itself.” Apple will also avoid notifying users if the company “believes that providing notice could create a risk of injury or death to an identifiable individual or group of individuals or in situations where the case relates to child endangerment,” though this is entirely up to Apple and not to the law enforcement agencies involved. These notification requirement will help prevent random and unfounded searches.
What is missing?
The policies and capabilities surrounding iCloud Keychain, iMessages and FaceTime calls are unclear and disputed. Apple claims iMessage & Facetime are encrypted but there is some speculation otherwise.
Is this unusual?
No, other tech companies have similar policies. For example, Google provides a similar “Transparency Report” outlining the types of data available to law enforcement. The notification policy is new and several other tech giants, including Facebook and Microsoft, have already indicated that they plan to expand their policies on notifying customers whose data has been requested by law enforcement
|Where is the Data?||Type of Data||Means to Obtain Data||Restrictions|
|Information stored on Apple Servers||Data Associated with your Apple ID||contact inormation||obtainable with a subpoena or greater legal process|
|customer service records|
|transaction history both in store & online|
|iTunes gift card information|
|Data Associated with your iCloud Account||connection logs & IP address used||Any iCloud information that the user deletes cannot be accessed.|
|60 days of iCloud mail logs that “include records of incoming and outgoing communications such as time, date, sender e-mail addresses, and recipient e-mail addresses”||e-mail logs require a court order or search warrant|
|any e-mail messages that the user has not deleted||requires a search warrant|
|any other information that can be backed up to iCloud – As of this writing, this list includes contacts, calendars, browser bookmarks, Photo Stream photos, anything that uses the “documents and data” feature (which can include not just word processors but also photo and video apps, games, and data from other applications), and full device backups|
|Information stored locally on iOS devices||SMS messages||requires a search warrant – Devices must be running iOS 4 or newer, must be “in good working order,” and must be provided directly to Apple’s headquarters along with an external storage drive twice the size of the iOS device’s internal storage.||Cannot access e-mails, calendar entries, or information from third-party applications|
|pictures and videos|
|phone’s call history|