After recently joining other tech giants in staging a public rebellion against their past practice of quietly fulfilling government demands for information, Apple has updated the guidelines that law enforcement and government agencies must follow in requesting information and made it clear it would notify customers affected.
Noting that “law enforcement should be as narrow and specific as possible when fashioning their legal process to avoid misinterpretation and/or objections in response to an overly broad request,” Apple said it “will notify its customers when their personal information is being sought in response to legal process except where providing notice is prohibited by the legal process itself” either through a court order or by law. Other exceptions are when the company believes that notifying customers “could create a risk of injury or death to an identifiable individual or group of individuals or in situations where the case relates to child endangerment.”
The U.S.’s spying initiatives, including the National Security Agency’s controversial phone surveillance program revealed by a steady stream of Snowden documents, have come under fire by corporations, lawmakers, privacy groups, foreign governments and the public, with companies like Facebook admitting that they had provided information to government and law enforcement without notifying customers.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361). The bipartisan legislation, introduced last October, is aimed at curbing unbridled government access to the data. The major provisions of the bill prohibit mass collection of Americans’ data under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 402 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letter orders.
The updated Apple policy changes will not apply to national security letters — FBI subpoenas issued during national security investigations — or those requests that have Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approval.