WikiLeaks’ ongoing dump of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta have already offered a few insights relating to Apple and Tim Cook. The most recent dump, however, includes an email from Apple executive Lisa Jackson which may seem a little jarring to Apple customers at first because she is boasting about the thousands of times every month that Apple is sharing data with the government and the acknowledgement that, even with encryption, Apple devices still have some juicy morsels for law enforcement:
Thousands of times every month, we give governments information about Apple customers and devices, in response to warrants and other forms of legal process. We have a team that responds to those requests 24 hours a day. Strong encryption does not eliminate Apple’s ability to give law enforcement meta-data or any of a number of other very useful categories of data.
But keep in mind, there are over a billion Apple devices out there. The email was sent following Clinton voicing her opinion regarding encryption in the tech industry, but it is all stuff we’ve seen before…
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In the email, Jackson thanks Podesta for the “principled and nuanced stance” Clinton took on encryption and the tech industry. For some context, the email was sent while Apple was preparing to publicly voice its opposition to the controversial UK Investigatory Powers Bill that would require Apple to hold a key to encrypted smartphones and services such as iMessage and FaceTime.
The further you read into the email, though, Jackson’s purpose becomes a bit more muddled. Jackson writes that Apple is constantly giving government “information about Apple customers and devices.” While it’s easy to jump to conclusions with that statement, the next sentence is important as Jackson explains that the information is given in response to warrants and other legal requests.
It’s important to not let this blow out of proportion, though. Apple and Tim Cook have long said that the company regularly aids law enforcement when it is able to do so. Apple’s opposition to helping governments, however, comes when it is asked to create a backdoor. This was the case with the San Bernardino and other various cases, as well as the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK.
Additionally, Apple has numerous resources on its website that highlight its transparency when it comes to encryption and customer privacy. During the San Bernardino case, Apple published a FAQ page concerning encryption, noting that it complies with warrants regularly. Tim Cook noted of the same thing in an open letter. Apple also regularly publishes transparency reports concerning encryption and government information requests.
What’s interesting to note here is that Jackson’s tone in the email is far different than the tone Apple takes publicly. Generally, in public, Apple tends to play the “good guy” and downplay its response to government requests for information. Jackson, however, almost seems to boast of its “thousands” of responses to government aid and various ways encryption doesn’t help Apple users hide information.
Jackson has been a long-time Clinton supporter and previously led the EPA under the Obama administration. Jackson has served on the board of directors of the Clinton Foundation since 2013 and has endorsed Clinton’s bid for the presidency, as well.
You can read the full email below:
Hi John, I wanted to reach out to say thanks for the principled and nuanced stance the Secretary took last night on encryption and the tech sector. Leadership at Apple certainly noticed and I am sure that is true though out the Valley.
Please know that Apple will continue its work with law enforcement. We share law enforcement’s concerns about the threat to citizens and we work closely with authorities to comply with legal requests for data that have helped solve complex crimes. Thousands of times every month, we give governments information about Apple customers and devices, in response to warrants and other forms of legal process. We have a team that responds to those requests 24 hours a day. Strong encryption does not eliminate Apple’s ability to give law enforcement meta-data or any of a number of other very useful categories of data.
Tonight, Tim and Apple will be featured on “60 Minutes.” We expect encryption and taxes to be covered. In previews, Tim reacts strongly to the EU tax investigation of Apple and other American companies. We will amplify encryption messaging tomorrow when we publicly release our comments on the draft UK Investigatory Powers bill.
Best wishes to you and your family and the HRC family for a peaceful and joyous holiday season and a prosperous and bright 2016.