Apple changes the way it will respond to legal requests after receiving subpoenas from the DOJ
Apple announced this past Friday that it is making changes to the amount of information it will release when it receives a subpoena. It was just recently announced by Apple that during the Trump-era, the Justice Department, at Trump's direction, served Apple with several subpoenas demanding information that the company had on some of the Democratic lawmakers that Trump considered to be among his enemies.
Apple received a subpoena from the DOJ forcing it to give 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses
In February 2018, Apple received the subpoenas from the Justice Department seeking 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses for a total of 109 identifiers. While Apple did turn this info over to the DOJ, it refused to give the agency photographs and any individual emails. The New York Times reported last week that the subpoenas sent to Apple and other companies were related to an investigation conducted by the DOJ on Trump's behalf, to find who in the media leaked details about Trump associates' contacts with Russia.
Apple received a subpoena for information from the Department of Justice
The Times (via Reuters) said that the DOJ, using the information it received from the subpoenas, investigated no fewer than two Democrats on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, their aides and family members. This, believe it or not, included one minor child.
Apple said that it had no idea what the investigation was about and supplied the Justice Department with only basic information such as "account subscriber information" including names, addresses, email addresses and telephone numbers, connection logs, and IP addresses. Apple noted that it did not give the DOJ any data revealing who might have sent messages and when they were sent.
Clarifying a little more, Apple said that the subpoena (which included a gag order from a federal judge) "provided no information on the nature of the investigation and it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users' accounts."
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said on Friday that he will probe how the Trump administration seized the communications data of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Horowitz will be looking at the DOJ's "use of subpoenas and other legal authorities to obtain communication records of Members of Congress and affiliated persons, and the news media in connection with recent investigations of alleged unauthorized disclosures of information to the media by government officials."
The Inspector General added that his review will "examine the Department's compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations." A White House official called the Trump administration's actions "appalling."
Apple will only give out no more than 25 identifiers with future requests for information
Apple has placed limits on future requests for information to 25 identifiers for each legal request. Apple was not allowed to tell its customers about the subpoenas due to non-disclosure agreements which were extended three times, each one for a year. Once the NDAs expired on May 5th of this year, Apple was able to inform impacted customers about the investigations and the subpoenas.
Two Democrats on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee who were included in the DOJ's request for information from Apple included committee chair Adam Schiff and committee member Eric Swalwell. The former made a statement last week and said, "President Trump repeatedly and flagrantly demanded that the Department of Justice carry out his political will, and tried to use the Department as a cudgel against his political opponents and members of the media."
Swalwell confirmed on MSNBC that his Apple data was seized by the Trump administration. One of the Democrats who threw his hat in the ring and ran for president last year, Swalwell is concerned that if Trump runs again in 2024 and wins back the presidency, he "may just skip the Department of Justice and its processes and just order his lieutenants to lock up his political opponents."