Tim Cook

Just as Apple published a new letter from Tim Cook and an update on privacy and security policies, a new report points to evidence the company has recently received new government demands for user data under the Patriot Act. GigaOM reports that language previously included in Apple’s Transparency Reports noting the company had “never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act” has since been removed. That could signal, according to the report, Apple’s involvement with controversial National Security Agency programs that demand data from companies:

The warrant canary’s disappearance is significant because Section 215 of the Patriot Act permits the National Security Agency to demand companies to hand over their business records in secret, and is believed to be the legal foundation of the controversial PRISM program, which forced major tech companies like Google and Yahoo to participate in a data-collection scheme.

The language was originally included in Apple’s first Transparency Report published November 5, 2013, but the report notes it has since been removed in Transparency Reports covering the last half of 2013 and first half of 2014. The statement was thought to be a “warranty canary”, allowing Apple to signal that it had received requests it isn’t able to talk about by removing it from future reports. If that’s actually what happened is still unclear, however, as some suggest new Justice Department guidelines could have resulted in the removal of the language. 

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