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GADGET DESIGNER Apple has commented on PRISM, the internet surveillance dragnet deployed by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Apple claimed it is shocked at the news, but that its users are protected. It posted a statement to its website entitled, "Apple's Commitment to Customer Privacy".
"Two weeks ago, when technology companies were accused of indiscriminately sharing customer data with government agencies, Apple issued a clear response: We first heard of the government's 'PRISM' program when news organizations asked us about it on June 6. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order," it said in its statement.
"Like several other companies, we have asked the U.S. government for permission to report how many requests we receive related to national security and how we handle them. We have been authorized to share some of that data, and we are providing it here in the interest of transparency."
The other companies include Google, which earlier disclaimed involvement with the NSA PRISM programme.
Apple admitted that it does hand over some information to the NSA in certain circumstances, and explained that in a six month period ending in May it received 5,000 requests covering 10,000 accounts and devices. It said that most of the requests came from police investigations.
"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. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it," it added.
"Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers' personal data, and we don't collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place. There are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it."
Not all Apple comms data hangs ripely from the tree though, and the firm reminded users that iMessage and Facetime chats are blanketed in end to end encryption.
"Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers' location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form," it adds.
"We will continue to work hard to strike the right balance between fulfilling our legal responsibilities and protecting our customers' privacy as they expect and deserve." µ