At least one form of communication is still safe from PRISM, the long-ranging NSA electronic surveillance program uncovered this month. According to a statement Apple released today, the company does not release any iMessage, Facetime, Siri search, or Maps search data to any law enforcement agency. The encryption on those two formats is so thorough, says Apple, the company couldn’t even look at them if they wanted to.
With permission from the NSA, Apple also described the nature of the information it does hand over.
From December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement for customer data. Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in those requests, which came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters. The most common form of request comes from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide.
Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it.