Apple Releases NSA Request Details
Apple has released the company's first transparency report yesterday. This report details what the NSA asked from the company over the past few years – kind of. You see, the NSA won't let Apple (or any other company, for that matter) disclose specific details. What Apple can tell you is how many times the government asked for data, and Apple has split up the data in the best possible way too.
Here's more on that story.
The Data Split
Apple has divided data into two categories: account requests and device requests. Account requests include any information the NSA sought about personal accounts (including personal data). Device requests includes the number of times that the NSA asked for information about a certain device.
So, how many times did the NSA ask Apple for information about user accounts? According to the newly released PDF, around 3,000 times. How often did Apple comply with these requests? Apple can't reveal that number. The NSA has stated clearly that companies aren't allowed to divulge specifics.
Apple Releases NSA Request Details: Is Apple Collecting Your Data?
Apple has told press that the company does not collect user data. Apple went further to state that other companies do collect this data. We can only assume that Apple is taking a direct stab at Google here. But, like Apple, Google can't reveal any specific details.
Why are companies revealing this information at all? Big companies like Apple, Yahoo, Google and others want to prove to the world that they are not collecting data and aren't part of the government conspiracy. That's a really hard thing to do when the government has told these companies not to give up any real information.
The public wants to see details, but all you'll get right now are some stats that are somewhat vague.
Is More Information Coming?
The government states that letting companies like Apple give up really specific details would be a threat to public security. Let's not forget that the NSA works to keep the U.S. safe from terrorist (and other) attacks, and letting lots of information slip about the NSA's methods might be dangerous (so the story goes).
It's a really fine line between government privacy that's needed and privacy that infringes on citizen rights. It's also a line that Apple and others are having a really hard time straddling. Sure, the people want more details, but Apple can't give those up just yet.
Apple Releases NSA Request Details: More Snowden Leaks
In addition to Apple's latest PDF release, more Snowden leaks point to the fact that the NSA did tap into both Google and Yahoo data centers. This may mean that Google and Yahoo are (and did) store user privacy details, and that those details were given to the NSA. Again, though, companies can't reveal specifics.
So, here's the issue: Apple, Google, and Yahoo need to prove to the public that these companies are safe to trust and use. But, the government won't let those companies give up any really important details about NSA requests. That's a tough situation to be in. It may also be the one reason why Google is thought to be building an offshore data center. Thoughts?