Hold On! Gimme A Sec

Apple agreed to Trump’s request to collect data on two members of Congress in secret.

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The New York Occasions is reporting on a brand new twist in the storey of how the Trump administration’s Division of Justice used Big Tech to spy on two members of the House Intelligence Committee in an attempt to track down leaks to the press — particularly, that Apple didn’t fight it, and possibly never had an opportunity to fight it, because the corporate rubberstamped the request.

Apple told the outlet that it had no idea it was passing up the data of Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee at the time. Apple asserted in a press release that it had no idea what the probe was about and couldn’t have known unless it went through consumer accounts. As a result, it was treated the same as the vast majority of the 250 requests the company received from the federal government each week: granted. According to the New York Times, “an Apple paralegal obliged and offered the data.”

The New York Times article depicts a growing number of requests from the US government, as well as a basic willingness by Big Tech to comply (not that these corporations typically have a selection). According to the New York Times, Apple only opposed 4% of such requests in the first half of 2020. When the Trump administration obtained the mobile data of NYT reporters, Google opposed a gag order, but the article suggests it was easier to challenge since the NYT was counted as a firm, not a single customer.

Apple and Google both have transparency report pages where you can see how many government requests they’ve received and how often they’ve complied. Apple has yet to respond to our request for comment.

Microsoft was also caught up in Trump’s leak investigation. It told the New York Times that it, too, only recognised it had sent information to the federal government about a couple of congressional staff members after a gag order expired.

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