Apple sets limits on legal requests after Justice Department snooped on top Democrats

·2 min read
Apple says from now on it will limit the amount of data it hands over to investigators (AP)
Apple says from now on it will limit the amount of data it hands over to investigators (AP)

Apple says it will limit the amount of data it hands over to investigators from now on, following revelations that the Trump-era Justice Department subpoenaed the company for information on top congressional Democrats.

On Friday, the tech giant announced it will only provide 25 pieces of identifying data – such as phone numbers or email addresses – per legal request, Reuters reported.

The new policy comes amid reports that in 2017 and 2018, the Justice Department seized data from the accounts of at least two House Democrats as it investigated leaks regarding the Russia investigation.

Apple says the department subpoenaed the company in February 2018, requesting 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses. Apple complied, but says it had no idea the data was on congressional Democrats.

Fred Sainz, a spokesperson for Apple, told CNBC “it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users’ accounts”.

“Consistent with the request, Apple limited the information it provided to account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures,” Mr Sainz said.

Specifically, the Justice Department seized the records of Rep Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, and Rep Eric Swalwell, another Democratic member of the committee.

It also subpoenaed data on several aides and family members, including a minor.

The seizures came during a time when Donald Trump, then the US president, was fuming over investigations into his campaign’s ties to Russia, and over leaks about those investigations to the “fake news” press. The data subpoenas appear to have been part of an unusually aggressive effort to root out and punish those leaks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the seizures in a statement.

“The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing,” she said on Thursday. “These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president.”

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