Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference event in San Francisco, Monday, June 2, 2014.
After the recent leak of nude celebrity photos, possibly due to an iCloud hack, it was reasonable to expect Apple to react at its iPhone event. Not a word was said about the incident during the event, but Tim Cook later said the company is taking additional steps to protect its users' security and privacy, and now, Apple is delivering on that promise.
The section opens with an open letter from Tim Cook to Apple customers. His choice of words is particularly interesting: he describes Apple as a product-oriented company that never, ever touches your data.
"At Apple, your trust means everything to us." "Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple," he writes.
But what about iAd, Apple's mobile advertising platform, which lets developers embed ads into their apps?
Finally, Cook claims Apple has "never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services."
"We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will," he writes.
The wording of that last paragraph is particularly interesting; when asked about its participation in NSA's PRISM program back in June 2013, Apple said it does not give any government agency "direct access" to its servers. "Any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order," Apple said at the time.
Now, Cook says flat out Apple has never allowed access to its servers — direct or not — and court orders are not mentioned.
That position is reiterated in a special section of Apple's new Privacy page, called "Government Information Requests". There, Apple goes a step further, claiming it cannot decrypt a user's phone (if it's protected by a passcode) even if a government requests it.
"On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8," says Apple, throwing a nice little jab at its competitors as well.
There's a catch, though: even if Apple is unable to hand over the data from your phone, it can (and will, if asked via a court order) hand over the data from your iTunes or iCloud account.
Apple argues that "only a small fraction" of requests from law enforcement seek personal data from those accounts — email, photos and such — more precisely, the company claims that "less than 0.00385% of customers had data disclosed due to government information requests." Still, anyone who wants to be certain his or her data is safe from prying eyes of the government(s), should disable iCloud data storage altogether.
Tags: Apple, APPS AND SOFTWARE, PRIVACY, SECURITY, Tech, TIM COOK