In a new report on government information requests, Apple denied that the U.S. government ordered the company under Patriot Act authority to hand over customer data to the National Security Agency.
“Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act,” said the company. “We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”
A federal government court order under the authorities of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, also called the “business records” section, requires that a company provide investigators with “any tangible things” for foreign intelligence or terrorism investigations.
“Any tangible things” includes “books, records, papers, documents, and other items.”
Recently unearthed emails between two top advisers to President Obama reveal a high-level concern going back as far as 2004 over how the provision might be broadly interpreted to justify collecting whole databases from companies.
Section 215 took the media spotlight over the summer following a report in the Guardian revealing a now-previously classified order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that compelled Verizon to hand over to the NSA on an ongoing basis the phone data of all Verizon customers anywhere inside the U.S.
The revelation, leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, touched off a firestorm of domestic and international criticism of U.S. tech and telecom companies and the U.S. intelligence community.
On Oct. 11, the FISC renewed the NSA’s data collection authorities under Section 215 for yet another 90 days.