AMITIAE - Tuesday 28 January 2014

Cassandra: Apple and NSA Orders

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Apple released its Q1 - 2014 financial results at 04:45 Thai time, but about 15 minutes later put out a second press release: an Update on National Security and Law Enforcement Orders.

There has been much written on the role of the NSA in recent months and the information released by Edward Snowden has brought about a recognition in some quarters of the cowboy disregard for laws that some agencies in the United States have, adding to its general disregard for international law, especially following the tragic events of 9/11.

Apple points out its concern regarding the public disquiet on what some companies may or may not be giving to the NSA in particular, but it needs to be pointed out that, with warrants, the NSA is acting legally and any company is duty bound to comply with a request for information. It is the warrantless requests or the back door data collection that some are concerned about.

A good example of this is the information available today in a report by Adam Clark Estes on Gizmodo (and several other sources) that suggests Angry Birds is being used as a way for the NSA and their partners in crime, the British GCHQ, to collect location data. It may be useful if any terrorists do play the game, but the implications for an unregulated collection suggest a gross invasion of privacy for users, and not just in the United States.

The Apple press release is produced here in full as an image file as I wanted to preserve as much as possible about the document:

Apple Security Compliance

The one page contains Apple's justifications for its necessary compliance with any orders and the number of such orders that have been complied with. There is a single country: the United States.

Do we presume that there are no requests for information for accounts in other countries; that those in other countries do not commit any acts that might be of interest to the NSA (or its sister agencies); or do US companies just hand over the data freely as those outside are unprotected and fair game?

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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