Apple may have hinted even it can't escape the Patriot Act

Telling canary has croaked

Google FISA

When the first-ever Apple transparency report was published in 2013, the company included a note that it had never received any Patriot Act-related information requests from the government.

That's now changed, it seems.

That note about not having received any Patriot Act requests appears to have been something called a "warrant canary," which companies use to indicate when they've received requests that they can't otherwise legally disclose.

When the "canary" disappears, it means the company has received a secret subpoena, Patriot Act request or other clandestine order. Sure enough, Apple's is nowhere to be seen.

Bird in a cage

The note in the original transparency report was first identified on culture blog Boing Boing.

"Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act," it read. "We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us."

But Apple's subsequent reports, from the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, omitted the canary.

Rising tide

Section 215 of the Patriot Act specifically allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to requisition companies' business records, and forbids those companies from disclosing such activity. It's likely part of the reason why PRISM was allowed to exist.

This development comes at a time when government requests to companies for data like user info has increased dramatically, so it's no surprise that Apple may have been subject to them as well.

Tech firms early this year struck a deal with the US Department of Justice that lets them disclose numbers of requests made through the US's FISA court, which include Section 215 Patriot Act requests and more.

The companies must wait six months to disclose these numbers, and there are other restrictions, but still, it could be just a matter of time before Apple is able to comment on this in some capacity.

Via GigaOM

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