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Apple releases figures on government data requests

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U.S. tech giant Apple revealed on Monday it received between 4,000 and 5,000 data requests in six months from US authorities, days after Facebook and Microsoft released similar information.

Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and several other top Internet and technology companies have come under heightened scrutiny since word leaked of a vast, covert Internet surveillance program US authorities insist targets only foreign terror suspects and has helped thwart attacks.

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In a statement on its web site, Apple said in the period between December 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013, federal, state and local law enforcement had requested customer information up to 5,000 times, related to between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices.

Most commonly, these requests were related to criminal investigations, searches for missing children or patients with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide, Apple said.

But the iPhone maker said it works vigorously to protect the privacy of its users and only provides information by court order.

“Regardless of the circumstances, our legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities,” it said, noting that sometimes the requests were denied altogether.

Apple also specified certain types of communications are protected, such as FaceTime and iMessage conversations, which are “protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them.”

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“Apple cannot decrypt that data,” the statement said.

“Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.”

Facebook said Friday it had received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests for user data affecting 18,000 to 19,000 accounts during the second half of last year, while Microsoft said it had received 6,000 to 7,000 requests affecting 31,000 to 32,000 accounts during the same period.

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Both firms said they were prohibited by law from listing a separate tally for security-related requests or secret court orders concerning terror probes.

Internet freedom group The Center for Democracy & Technology praised the release as an “important step” but urged the government to allow the companies to release further details.

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There has been a public backlash for the tech companies since government contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of PRISM, a vast program that saw nine companies turn over user data to the US National Security Agency.

Leaked details of the program — first published by Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post — have reignited debate over the trade-offs between privacy and security more than a decade after the September 11 attacks.

The companies have denied claims the NSA could directly access their servers. US authorities have said the program was legal and limited.

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FBI Director Robert Mueller told lawmakers last week the program could have prevented 9/11 and said the leaks had caused “significant harm to our nation and to our safety.”

He also confirmed that Snowden was the subject of a criminal investigation.

Snowden, a 29-year-old IT technician, has gone to ground in Hong Kong, where he had surfaced for media interviews after the leaks were published. He has vowed to contest any extradition order in court.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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2020 Election

‘Very good news’: Law prof praises Kentucky’s bipartisan compromise to allow everyone to vote by mail

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The state of Kentucky was praised on Friday after a bipartisan agreement was reached to expand voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Any Kentucky voter wary of the risk of COVID-19 will be able to vote in the Nov. 3 general election by mailing in an absentee ballot. Voters will also have the option of casting a ballot in person during the three weeks leading up to the election, or waiting until Election Day," the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Friday.

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2020 Election

Political forecast models aren’t necessarily more accurate than polls – or the weather

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Political forecast models aren't necessarily more accurate than polls – or the weather As the old joke goes, it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. Tetra Images via Getty Images

John A. Tures, LaGrange College

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‘Proof of Trump’s dementia’: President ridiculed as ‘delusional’ for his latest claim about the 2020 campaign

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President Donald Trump said his campaign is trying to win the state of New York in the 2020 presidential campaign.

While on his way to a weekend at his Bedminister Golf Club, Trump tweeted a picture of a New York Post cover with the president claiming the state is "in play" during the 2020 presidential election.

"Just landed in New York to see my brother, Robert. We’re going for New York on November 3rd. We’re going to Reduce Taxes, Increase Law Enforcement, and bring it back BIG TIME!" Trump claimed.

The president was quickly ridiculed for thinking New York is in play, when election analysts view New York as a safe state for Democrats.

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