On February 6, 2018, Apple received a subpoena from a jury for names and phone records associated with 109 email addresses and phone numbers. It was one of more than 250 data requests the company received on average from law enforcement from Apple. United States Each week during that time, Apple’s lawyers followed and provided information.
This year, the gag order on the subpoena expired. Apple said it warned those under the subpoena, just as it does for dozens of customers each day.
But this request is not common.
Apple said Apple had hand over data from congressional officials. their family and at least two members of Congress, including Representative Adam B. Schiff of California. then a senior House Intelligence Committee Democrat and now its chairman. It turns out the subpoenas are part of a broader investigation by the Trump administration into leaks of classified information.
The revelation has put Apple in the midst of a firestorm of efforts by the Trump administration to find the source of the news. And the move has highlighted the overwhelming demands from law enforcement agencies increasingly faced by tech companies. The number of these requests has soared in recent years to thousands per week, putting Apple and other tech giants like Google and Microsoft in an uncomfortable position between law enforcement agencies, courts and customers who are scamming. They promise to protect privacy.
Companies consistently comply with requests. Because it is legal to do so. Summons can be vague, so Apple, Google, and others are often unclear about the nature or subject of the investigation. They can challenge certain summons if they are too broad or relevant to corporate clients. In the first six months of 2020, Apple challenged 238 government claims for customer account information, or 4% of those requests.
As part of the same leak investigation by the Trump administration, Google has been fighting a gag order this year with a subpoena to deliver information in the emails of four New York Times reporters. The Times corporate email requires newspapers to be informed of any government requests for their emails, said Ted Boutrous, an outside attorney for The Times.
But often companies Comply with the requirements of law enforcement agencies. And that underscores the awkward truth: as their products become more and more central to people’s lives. The world’s largest technology company has become an important surveillance intermediary and official partner. It has the power to decide which requests should be honored and what should be rejected.
“There was definitely tension going on,” said Alan Z. Rozenshtein, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Law and a former Justice Department attorney. he said too “The huge amount of data these companies have” and how everyone has a smartphone. most legal investigations “At some point it is related to these companies.”
last friday An independent Justice Department inspector has opened an investigation into the federal prosecutor’s decision to secretly seize data from the House of Representatives and journalists. Top Democrats in the Senate also called on former Attorney General William P. Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify before Congress about the leak investigation. Especially concerning subpoenas issued to Apple and another Microsoft lawsuit.
Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said in a statement that the company often challenges government data requests and notifies affected customers as soon as possible.
“In this case, a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury and includes a non-disclosure order signed by a federal magistrate judge. without providing information about the nature of the investigation And it’s almost impossible for Apple to understand the intent. “Consistent with Apple’s request, limit the information provided to account member information and do not provide any content such as email or images.”
In a statement, Microsoft said it received a subpoena related to a personal email account in 2017. It said it notified customers after the gag order expired and knew the person was a congressman. “We will continue to actively seek reforms that impose reasonable limits on government secrecy in such cases,” the company said.
Google declined to comment on whether it had received a subpoena in connection with the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee investigation.
The Justice Department has not publicly commented on Apple changing House Intelligence Committee memos. In this week’s congressional testimony, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland avoided criticizing the Trump administration’s decision. and said that the seizure of records took place “Under a series of policies that have been around for decades.”
In the Justice Department leak investigation, Apple and Microsoft changed the so-called metadata of people working in Congress. This includes phone records. Device and address information, it is not uncommon for the Department of Justice to subpoena such metadata. This is because such information can be used to determine if someone is in contact with a member of the media. or their work or home accounts are linked to anonymous accounts used to disseminate confidential information.
Under the gag order the authorities outlined in the subpoena, Apple and Microsoft agreed not to tell those individuals whose information was claimed. In Apple’s case, the one-year gag order was renewed three separate times. together This is in contrast to Google, which resisted a gag order in a summons to transfer information in a Times reporter.
Most of the different answers are explained by the various relationships. In this case, Apple and Microsoft are instructed to submit information relating to personal accounts. Whereas a subpoena to Google affects an enterprise customer that is under contract. The contract gave Google a more specific basis to challenge the gag order, the lawyer said.
Apple’s subpoena was more vague — it simply asked for information on a set of email addresses and phone numbers — and the company said it didn’t know it was related to a congressional investigation. For Google, the Justice Department apparently asked for a memo from The Times. Because the email address is clearly the email address of the Times reporter.
Google says it generally doesn’t handle different customer data requests for individual and corporate accounts. But the company has a clear argument for redirecting corporate customer requests for information on the recommendation of the Justice Department.
In a guideline released in 2017, the Justice Department called on prosecutors. “Direct search” from companies instead of having to go through a technology provider unless doing so is impractical or will compromise the investigation when going to Google to seize information about a journalist. So the Justice Department tried to avoid The Times. Google declined to say whether it used Justice Department guidelines to combat gag orders.
Google said it produced some data in 83% of nearly 40,000 requests for information from US government agencies. obtained in the first half of 2020. By comparison, Google generated partial data on 39 percent of data requests on 398 paid Google Cloud enterprise customers, including email and web hosting deals in Google Cloud. same period
Law enforcement requests for data from American tech companies have more than doubled in recent years. Facebook said it received nearly 123,000 data requests from the U.S. government last year, up from 37,000 in 2015.
Apple said it received an average of 400 weekly customer data requests from US law enforcement in the first half of 2020. That’s more than double the rate five years ago. The company’s compliance rate has remained about 80 to 85 percent for many years.
Officers also require additional account information on each request. In the first half of 2020, each US government subpoena or subpoena requested information for an average of 11 accounts or devices, on average. Increased from fewer than three accounts or devices in the first half of 2015.
Apple said after the government began consolidating more than 100 accounts in some subpoenas. Just as it did in its 2018 leak investigation, the agency has asked law enforcement to limit requests to 25 accounts per request, which police did not comply with at all times, the company said.
Apple often challenges subpoenas with many accounts because they are too broad. The former senior attorney at the firm spoke about the terms of confidentiality. The person said it wouldn’t be surprising for Apple to challenge a 2018 Justice Department subpoena, but whether the request is challenged often depends on whether the assistant attorney handling the subpoena will raise the bar for a more senior attorney.
Charlie Savage have a report