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Apple: iMessage and FaceTime Are Safe From the NSA's Prying Eyes Apple: iMessage and FaceTime Are Safe From the NSA's Prying Eyes Apple: iMessage and FaceTime Are Safe From the NSA's Prying Eyes Apple: iMessage and FaceT...

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Tech

Apple: iMessage and FaceTime Are Safe From the NSA's Prying Eyes

The company adds that the government asked for data on up to 10,000 user accounts in the past 6 months.

(AP Photo/Ed Ou)

photo of Brian Fung
June 17, 2013

Here's how to have a secret conversation the government can't access: Just use iMessage, Apple's text-messaging service that, the company now says, is encrypted and can't be read by anyone except the sender and the recipients.

Apple has added its voice to a growing chorus of Silicon Valley companies calling on Washington for more transparency regarding its data-collection practices. In a statement released Monday, Apple disclosed new details about the requests for user information it fields from the government.

For the six months ending May 31, the company reported getting between 4,000 and 5,000 law-enforcement data requests, which altogether cover between 9,000 and 10,000 specific user accounts ("or devices," Apple says). Some fraction of that number is made up of FISA warrants and national security letters, but it's not clear how many or what the distribution looks like.

 

The firm also disclosed just what kind of data it does not make available to law enforcement—mainly, the end-to-end encrypted content Apple is unable to track, such as text and multimedia messages sent over Apple's iMessage service, as well as video chats using FaceTime.

"Similarly," Apple says, "we do not store data related to customers' location, Map searches, or Siri requests in any identifiable form."

On Friday, Microsoft revealed that the government asked for its customers' data between 6,000 and 7,000 times in the last six months of calendar-year 2012, implicating up to 32,000 accounts. The same day, Facebook said that it had received between 9,000 and 10,000 data requests over the same period, calling into question some 19,000 accounts on the service.

Google has yet to update its own transparency report with FISA data, though it does post the number of national security letters it gets from the government. And its off-the-record function in Google chat allows for the same end-to-end encryption that iMessage and FaceTime use.

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