Apple has for a long time touted its privacy credentials. Its refusal to help the FBI unlock San Bernadino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone being a prime example. However, those privacy credentials have taken a knock with the revelation that Apple logs your iMessage contacts.
According to The Intercept, the Messaging app communicates with Apple’s servers every time you contact someone. This helps to determine whether or not that person is also using Apple’s proprietary messaging system.
If they are a fellow Apple user, your communications will take place via iMessage, complete with blue bubbles. If they’re using a non-Apple device, your communications will take place via SMS, complete with green bubbles.
Apple logs this data, along with the date and time, and your IP address. This data is then retained for 30 days, during which time law enforcement officers can request access to it. If such a request is made, Apple is compelled to turn the data over, revealing who you may have been in contact with during the previous month.
Apple Defends the Turning Over of Metadata
"Apple Logs Your iMessage Contacts — and May Share Them With Police", goes with "it's just metadata" defense ? https://t.co/rv2xOLQaJ4
— DHH (@dhh) September 28, 2016
This revelation came from a document sourced from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Electronic Surveillance Support Team. Apple issued a statement which seemed to confirm the basic facts but still defended the practice:
“When law enforcement presents us with a valid subpoena or court order, we provide the requested information if it is in our possession. Because iMessage is encrypted end-to-end, we do not have access to the contents of those communications.”
“We work closely with law enforcement to help them understand what we can provide and make clear these query logs don’t contain the contents of conversations or prove that any communication actually took place.”
It’s heartening to know Apple isn’t keeping track of the actual contents of the messages sent through iMessage. But this still dents Apple’s reputation as the custodian of its users’ privacy.
Does this information surprise you? Or dishearten you? Do you assume everything you say and do on your phone is logged anyway? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credit: Jan Persiel via Flickr