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Apple reveals US data requests, promises more privacy

28 January 2014, 16:03Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - Apple has updated methods of reporting so-called blab orders as the iPhone maker seeks to re-assure customers that it is taking all measures possible to protect personal data.

"Apple has been working closely with the White House, the US Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the Department of
Justice to advocate for greater transparency with regard to the national security orders we receive," the company said in a statement.

National Security Letters (NSLs) issued by US security agencies have come in for criticism, and companies that deal with troves of user data like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo have long taken issue with the orders which do not require a court order.

The US Justice Department on Monday reached a deal with the tech firms to allow them to disclose the scope of the security orders.

Apple, which was not part of the lawsuit, said that its customer data was encrypted - even from US authorities.

Public backlash

"Personal conversations are protected using end-to-end encryption over iMessage and FaceTime and Apple does not store location data, Maps searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form," the company insisted.

Some analysts have argued that the NSLs in conjunction with the revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden could harm the business of US internet companies as a public backlash against the harvesting of information may ensue.

Search engines that promise anonymous searching like DuckDuckGo have seen an uptick in the number of users and a Switzerland-based company recently announced the launch of the Blackphone.

Though it is powered by Android, the device allows customers to make secure phone calls and send secure messages.

Apple had previously voiced its disappointment as the gag order prohibiting the tech firm from reporting the number and scope of the NSLs.

The company said that NSLs gives a firm no choice but to provide the information requested.

"NSLs are limited to transactional data such as a customer's contact information. Apple is required by law to comply with these NSLs if we have the information requested."

Apple reported that from January to June 2013, it received 927 information requests from the US government and it complied in 81% of cases where some data was disclosed.

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