Apple has always been very outspoken in its disdain for tech companies that store customer data that the police can access. But, as it turns out, Apple may have some customer data that law enforcement agencies can demand as well.
Apple’s instant messaging service, iMessage, is a private way of chatting with whom ever your heart desires but, as The Intercept has revealed, just because your conversations stay private does not mean Apple does not know who you’ve been talking to.
In fact, the iPhone maker does have a log of which phone numbers you have contacted or tried to contact — and the authorities can force Apple to hand over those records with a court order.
“Every time you type a number into your iPhone for a text conversation, the Messages app contacts Apple servers to determine whether to route a given message over the ubiquitous SMS system, represented in the app by those déclassé green text bubbles, or over Apple’s proprietary and more secure messaging network, represented by pleasant blue bubbles, according to the document,” reads The Intercept’s report. “Apple records each query in which your phone calls home to see who’s in the iMessage system and who’s not.”
Other data logged includes the date and time a number was entered and your IP address. Apple told the publication that it deletes its logs once every 30 days, but, as The Intercept points out: “this kind can typically be extended in additional 30-day periods, meaning a series of monthlong log snapshots from Apple could be strung together by police to create a longer list of whose numbers someone has been entering.”
To be fair, Apple, on its privacy page only says it does not store your communications and makes no such promises about logging your contacts. But it also does not come out and say that such data is collected.
“Your iMessages and FaceTime calls are your business, not ours,” the page reads. “Your communications are protected by end-to-end encryption across all your devices when you use iMessage and FaceTime, and with iOS and watchOS, your iMessages are also encrypted on your device in such a way that they can’t be accessed without your passcode. Apple has no way to decrypt iMessage and FaceTime data when it’s in transit between devices. So unlike other companies’ messaging services, Apple doesn’t scan your communications, and we wouldn’t be able to comply with a wiretap order even if we wanted to. While we do back up iMessage and SMS messages for your convenience using iCloud Backup, you can turn it off whenever you want. And we don’t store FaceTime calls on any servers.”
But CEO Tim Cook, in an open letter to customers on the company’s privacy page, said the website explains how Apple handles your personal information as well as what it does and doesn’t collect, and why. The storing of phone numbers, however, was conveniently forgotten.