Apple: Store Data Is Available to Law Enforcement

May 8, 2014

One day after Apple reportedly dropped its political opposition to a mandated “kill switch” for smartphones, the company has posted a detailed Web page explaining to law enforcement what investigative information it can provide, and the procedures required for obtaining it. The page reveals exactly what data is available from retail store purchase transactions, and confirms that store surveillance video is generally available only for 30 days. It also covers emergency disclosures of customer information, records preservation requests and extracting data from passcode-locked iPhones. The page also provides some privacy assurances to iPhone users that Apple can’t decrypt iMessage or FactTime communications, nor does it store user GPS location data. On the other hand, Apple can intercept and provide users’ email under a court wiretap order. Apple and other smartphone makers have been opposing a campaign launched by San Francisco district attorney George Gascon to mandate software that renders stolen handsets useless. Gascon’s intent is to end the market for stolen smartphones, and thereby discourage criminals from stealing them. The campaign stems from statistics that show 67 percent of street robberies in San Francisco and other cities involve a smartphone. Smartphone and cellular carriers generally want to apply their own solution, without legislative intervention. For example, Apple’s iOS 7 update in June 2013 added features that increased security, including a reset-proof lockout. However, Gascon believes smartphone makers are moving too slowly and that they receive a monetary benefit when smartphones are stolen.

As for assisting law enforcement, Apple requires a subpoena or search warrant to obtain information about store purchases, including the type of card associated with a particular purchase, name of the purchaser, email address, date/time of the transaction, amount of the transaction, and store location.

Apple’s retail store video surveillance systems don’t keep clips forever, the Web page states. The systems are specified to retain at least 30 days of video, but based on system settings, it could be more or fewer days. A deposition in an earlier lawsuit stated that videos are kept from 60 to 120 days. Requests for videos can be made directly with a store’s manager, Apple said.

Update: On the same day Apple posted the Web page, the California Senate passed the “kill switch” bill. The previous week the bill failed by two votes.

Read all the details of the page.

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