“I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” Cook said. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”
That disclosure, however, may not preclude information requests under Section 215 of the US Patriot Act, according to Gigaom’s John Jeff Roberts.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act — which has been in place since 2001 as a counterterrorism measure — allows the US government to obtain business records in secret, so long as they’re relevant to national security.
Apple has been including a so-called “warrant canary” in its reports on government information requests, which it began publishing last year. Apple’s warrant canary is designed to let the public know it has not handed over information to the government.
In its report last November, Apple specifically denied having turned over user information.
“Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act,” read the disclosure. “We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”
That disclosure is absent from Apple’s most recent report on government information requests, however, which might be a signal that they have complied, willingly or not, with one or more Patriot Act requests.
It’s difficult to know for sure whether Apple has needed to comply with the Patriot Act. Its most recent report refers to “National Security Requests,” which could refer to Patriot Act orders.
“We report all the national security orders we have received, including orders received under FISA and National Security Letters (‘NSLs’), in bands of 250,” said Apple’s report. “Though we want to be more specific, this is currently the narrowest range allowed by the government.”
As you can see, Apple has received somewhere between 0 and 250 information requests:
Tim Cook recently talked about Apple and government information requests in an interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose.
“There were rumours and things being written in the press that people had backdoors to our servers — none of that is true,” he said. “We would never allow that to happen. They’d have to cart us out in a box.”
Apple declined to comment on whether it had receieved individual Patriot Act orders.