Government Stories January 15, 2019

OPEN Government Data Act means all public data must be accessible by your iDevices

The OPEN Government Data Act means that all public data made available by the US government must be in a format accessible by smartphones, tablets and computers …

Government Stories May 25, 2018

Apple takes user privacy very seriously. The company believes that privacy in software, hardware, and services is part of a user’s rights and should be valued as such.

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Government Stories May 16, 2016

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As reported earlier, Apple CEO Tim Cook is visiting Beijing, China this week. The earlier Reuters report suggested Cook was intending to talk with government officials about company matters amidst increasing tensions between the country and Apple, following trademark disputes and the ban on iTunes Movies and iBooks content.

On Monday, though, Cook met with Chinese app developers at an Apple Store. The talk was hosted by Jean Lui, president of taxi company Didi Chuxing, of which Apple has invested $1 billion dollars. A plethora of Chinese app publishers were in attendance, including a Groupon-esque clone ‘Meituan’,  photo app MeituPic, news provider Toutia.com, cooking app DayDayCook and game developer Tap4Fun (via CNBC).

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Government Stories May 6, 2016

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Reuters is reporting that Apple CEO Tim Cook will visit China later in May to meet with government officials and address current tensions between Apple and China, seen by many as the main driver of revenue growth for the company going forward.

Apple has faced some significant setbacks in China in the last few weeks. The company has had to stop selling iBooks and iTunes Movies in the region following new governmental policy that restricts online publishing. Apple also ceded exclusive rights to the iPhone trademark after losing a court case, although it plans to appeal.

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Government Stories April 22, 2016

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In an interview with the BBC on national British radio, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said that he believes Apple should pay 50% tax, along with all other companies. He said he doesn’t like the distinction of different rules between corporations and individuals.

Today, although Apple has never been found to evade tax or conduct illegal practices, it does not pay at top-rate tax, using a variety of financial engineering schemes to redirect profits elsewhere, such as Ireland, with significantly lower tax requirements.

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Government Stories April 19, 2016

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Apple had published its latest Transparency Report on Government Information Requests, covering the second half of last year. It revealed that it received over 30,000 requests last year, and complied with up to 82% of them. It is not allowed to specify the exact number of National Security Requests, but says they fell into the 1250-1499 band.

Apple breaks down the numbers by country, region and type of request. It says that most fall into what it terms device requests. Apple’s compliance here ranges from 52% in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and India, to 80% in the USA.

The vast majority of the requests we receive from law enforcement relate to information about lost or stolen devices, and we report these as device requests. Device requests may include requests for customer contact information provided to register a device with Apple or the date(s) the device used Apple services. We count devices based on the individual serial or IMEI numbers related to an investigation. We encourage any customer who suspects their device is stolen to contact their local law enforcement agency.

Of perhaps greater interest are account requests, where the government is asking for information ranging from names and addresses to copies of iCloud backups …

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Government Stories February 18, 2016

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Following Apple’s refusal to unlock an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino gunmen, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican out of North Carolina, plans to propose a new bill that would impose criminal penalties on companies that don’t comply with those types of orders. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report says that Burr’s plan isn’t finalized yet and that it’s unclear how many other lawmakers support the idea.

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Government Stories February 16, 2016

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A United States magistrate judge in California has today directed that Apple must help the FBI break into the cell phone of the one go the men behind the fatal attacks in San Bernardino last December, NBC News reports. Last week, FBI Director James Comey complained that the government couldn’t break the encryption on the iPhone used by one of the gunmen.

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Government Stories February 1, 2016

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BlackBerry phones were once the default choice for enterprise, the combination of physical keyboard and secure messaging facility the two key selling-points. Those days are long gone.

The company dismissed the iPhone when it was launched in 2007, claiming that touchscreen phones could never compete with physical keyboards – before doing a U-turn by launching its own touchscreen phone less than a year later. A series of major service outages and a failure to deliver the promised BlackBerry 10 in 2011 sealed the company’s fate as a major player, and it today appears set to completely cede the secure messaging space to Apple.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen effectively admitted in December that the company had a ‘backdoor’ into its supposedly secure messaging system, and the company has now stated that it will this year make only Android phones – a platform not noted for its security credentials. This shortly after Microsoft’s Windows Phone looked even more irrelevant, the company reporting that revenues had halved year-on-year …

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Government Stories January 19, 2016

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Over the weekend, Apple posted its latest EEO-1 statement: the Equal Employment Opportunity form follows government regulations to note diversity of Apple’s employee base (via AppleInsider). The newly-released 2015 statement shows that 30 percent of Apple’s employees in the United States are female, a rise of 1% over the numbers posted in the 2014 statement. Black and Hispanic employees make up 8.6 percent and 11.7 percent of the workforce, respectively.

At an executive level, Apple continues to be heavily stacked towards white men. The report says that Apple’s senior officials, executives and managers are 83 percent are male, and 83 percent are white.

That being said, it’s worth noting that Apple refutes the EEO-1 process. It says that the federally-enforced survey is outdated and does not reflect reality. The company’s own numbers paint itself in a much better light, claiming >50% growth in employment of black, Hispanic and female hires.

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Government Stories November 17, 2015

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Nobody who watched the news coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris could fail to be moved by the scenes and the stories emerging from it. It was undeniably a horrific series of events, and it’s only human nature to want action to be taken to reduce the likelihood of future such atrocities.

But there is always a danger at such times that emotion, rather than rational thought, will drive government policy-making. I won’t get into the broader theme there, as there are more appropriate forums for that, but there is one aspect that is very much on-topic for us: the battle between Apple and governments over encryption.

There have already been unattributed reports that the terrorists in Paris used encrypted communication. I have no idea whether there is any specific evidence for that, but it would hardly be damning were such evidence to emerge: it would be frankly astonishing if they hadn’t.

There are three reasons why Apple is right to maintain that it will continue to offer end-to-end encrypted communication no matter how much governments in the USA, UK and elsewhere may protest …  expand full story

Government Stories November 3, 2015

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With Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other services transforming the way people carry out transactions, Apple has joined forces with four other companies to ensure that lawmakers don’t end up ‘inadvertently’ stifling innovation in the financial services field.

Technology industry leaders Amazon, Apple, Google, Intuit and PayPal today announced the formation of Financial Innovation Now, a coalition that will promote policies to help foster greater innovation in financial services.

While the new organization uses relatively diplomatic language, it’s pretty clear that the aim is to ensure that politicians don’t screw things up by introducing poorly thought-out legislation, like the infamous example proposed by Democratic Rep. Joshua Peters …  expand full story

Government Stories October 24, 2015

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Earlier this week, Apple stated that it would be nearly impossible for it to access the data on a passcode-locked iOS device running iOS 8 or later. The company also noted, however, that even if it were possible, it would not feel comfortable doing so as to not tarnish the trust it shares with its customers. The Department of Justice has now dismissed that argument, saying that Apple should be required to unlock encrypted data because iOS is “licensed, not sold” to customers (via DailyDot).

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Government Stories March 30, 2015

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While health tech has to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the agency will be taking “an almost hands-off approach” to fitness-oriented wearables like the Apple Watch, says policy advisor Bakul Patel in an interview in Bloomberg.

“We are taking a very light touch, an almost hands-off approach,” Patel, the FDA’s associate director for digital health, said in an interview. “If you have technology that’s going to motivate a person to stay healthy, that’s not something we want to be engaged in.”

Patel said the FDA would be drawing a distinction between products whose health claims focused on fitness rather than diagnosis …  expand full story

Government Stories February 13, 2015

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We learned earlier this week that Tim Cook would be speaking at a White House cybersecurity summit today, and it now appears he will be the only tech CEO to do so. USNews is reporting that CEOs of other top tech companies all declined President Obama’s invitation, sending lower-ranking execs in their place.

Unlike Apple’s Cook, other top executives at key Silicon Valley companies declined invitations to the summit. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Google’s Larry Page will not attend amid the ongoing concerns about government surveillance. Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said Zuckerberg is unavailable to attend and that Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan will speak during a panel at the event.

It’s believed other CEOs consider refusing to take part to be the best way to express their objections to increased government surveillance of electronic communications, while Cook takes the opposite view: that it is important to speak up in defence of user privacy …  expand full story

Government Stories December 12, 2014

Iowa planning America’s first iPhone driver’s license, working on privacy concerns

If you’re pulled over by a patrol car in Iowa, you might in future find the officer asking for your ‘iPhone and registration, please.’ The state is working on creating a smartphone app that can be shown in place of a physical license, reports the WSJ.

DOT spokeswoman Andrea Henry said that both security and privacy concerns need to be addressed before the project can proceed. Animation might be used to guard against someone showing a screengrab in place of the app, and privacy will be protected by ensuring that “the phone never leaves your hands.”

Users could hold up the phone so that police or Transportation Security Administration officers can scan the license electronically, rather than handling the phone.

The app will also need to hide notifications while it is in use, preventing a police officer having access to any other information on the phone, such as text message alerts.

MorphoTrust USA, the company working with the state to create the app, says that it is in discussion with more than 20 other states.

Government Stories December 1, 2014

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As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the federal government is not a big fan of Apple’s decision to employ data protection measures on its iOS devices that prevent snooping on a customer’s private information, even taking its disapproval to ridiculous levels at times.

Today Ars Technica reports that federal authorities are now considering new ways to force Apple to bypass these protections to assist in criminal investigations.

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Government Stories November 19, 2014

SMS Relay Text Message Forwarding iOS 8.1

Apple and the government have long been engaged in a bitter war of words over encryption and security practices employed in Apple’s iOS devices, but a new Wall Street Journal report indicates that the Department of Justice is really starting to take the rhetoric to the next level.

According to the Journal, a DOJ official actually told Apple executives during a meeting last month that in the future the Cupertino company could eventually be directly responsible for the death of a child. expand full story

Government Stories November 13, 2014

U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns iOS users about ‘Masque Attack’ security flaw

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday issued an alert warning iOS users about the recent “Masque Attack” security flaw that can affect both non-jailbroken and jailbroken iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team outlines how the technique works and offers solutions on how iOS users can protect themselves.

Government Stories November 10, 2014

Planned earthquake alert app aiming to provide 30 seconds’ warning in California, Oregon and Washington

A joint venture between Early Warning Labs and the U.S. Government is working on app they claim will provide 30 seconds warning of an earthquake in California, Oregon and Washington, reports TechCrunch.

While 30 seconds doesn’t seem like much, founder of EWL, Josh Bashioum says that is enough time to take shelter and save lives. About 13,000 earthquakes in the 4.0 range caused 347 deaths in the U.S. in 2011. However, an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 could have majorly devastating effects. For Bashioum, the best way to get the word out would be via an early warning on a smartphone.

The company hopes to make money by selling a $100-ish physical warning device it describes as ‘Nest for earthquake warnings,’ but the app will be free.

The company’s website provides little detail on how it aims to achieve the 30-second warning. Earthquake alert systems are based on detecting earthquakes in progress outside cities in the hope that they will provide a little warning before they reach urban areas, but typically provide only a few seconds’ notice. EWL says that it aims to use a network of seismic sensors to “rapidly detect the initiation of an earthquake […] and issue a warning before significant ground shaking starts.”

Government advice if an earthquake hits while indoors is to get under a sturdy desk or table if possible, otherwise to stand against an interior wall away from windows and exterior walls. If outside, move away from buildings, streetlights and any other structure that may fall.

You can ask to be notified when the app is available by entering your name and email address into an online form and checking the app button.

Government Stories July 25, 2014

Bill allowing smartphone unlocking approved by the House of Representatives, set to become law

After the decision last year to make unlocking smartphone and tablet devices illegal, the US House of Representatives today voted yes to allow the practice to become legal once again. This is already the second time the government has voted on this issue, as just a few weeks ago the US Senate approved the legislation to move on to the House. The final step in getting the law approved is the President’s signature, which should come with little delay as he has already spoken out in favor of the bill.

Government Stories July 11, 2014

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According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, President Barack Obama is set to announce a new program called “SupplierPay” to help boost small businesses, and Apple is one of the 26 companies listed as having already signed on.

The program intends to send money down the supply chain and help strengthen contractors and smaller businesses by giving them access to lower-cost capital and thereby opening up opportunities for hiring more workers. This, the White House hopes, will increase investments at the small business level as well. expand full story

Government Stories March 26, 2014

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Russian government officials have stopped using iPads in an official capacity, instead opting to use offerings from Samsung according to a new report by Business Insider. The new Samsung devices are custom, secured tablets designed to be used with the confidential information government officials often need to handle.

Russian officials have denied that the swap is an effort to stop supporting American companies following sanctions related to the Ukrainian crisis. It also doesn’t seem to relate to recent rumors that the US government had backdoor access to Apple’s iOS devices—a claim Apple has denied.

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Government Stories January 27, 2014

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Just a few days later after Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his thoughts about the NSA and data collection transparency, Apple has posted an update to its website with new information regarding account data requests. The company’s press release comes as US Department of Justice comes to a settlement with technology companies over how they are allowed to disclose information about government data requests.

A statement from the DOJ explains the agreement will allow “detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests including the underlying legal authorities.” Due to these new guidelines, Apple has now been able to report FISA and National Security Letters separate from law enforcement requests as show in its graphics above and below.  It also notes the new data released today replaces the U.S. data from its Feb. 5 2013 Report on Government Information Requests.

Apple-National-Security-orders-02Apple has been working closely with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the Department of Justice to advocate for greater transparency with regard to the national security orders we receive. We believe strongly that our customers have the right to understand how their personal information is being handled, and we are pleased the government has developed new rules that allow us to more accurately report law enforcement orders and national security orders in the U.S.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a recent interview that he would push congress for more transparency regarding controversial surveillance programs and how companies can disclose information related to information requests. At the time, Cook said that there was much the company couldn’t speak about due to gag orders:

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