Apple indicated that it tightened some of its rules for responding to legal requests after the US Department of Justice during Donald Trump’s presidency summoned it to court in order to obtain information about Democratic lawmakers.
The company said it had recently set a maximum of 25 identifiers, such as email addresses or phone numbers, for each legal request.
The Cupertino company stated that it received a subpoena from the Ministry of Justice in February 2018. The ministry requested information on 109 identifiers consisting of 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses. But it has not released content such as emails and photos to prosecutors.
The New York Times reported that federal prosecutors have summoned Apple and other companies as part of an investigation looking into the sources behind news media reports about communications between Trump associates and Russia.
The newspaper reported that the investigation targeted at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and their family members, including one minor.
Apple tightens its controls:
The Trump Department of Justice has targeted Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, as well as their aides and family members. This is in a 2018 effort to find the sources behind the stories of Trump associates contacting Russia.
Apple said it had no way of knowing the nature of the investigation. Only basic account subscriber information such as names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers, as well as contact logs and IP addresses, are released.
The iPhone maker indicated that it did not provide data showing who and when the messages of any kind were sent.
The Justice Department’s inspector general said he was investigating the department’s efforts under Trump over the confiscation of communications data for lawmakers and members of the media.
The current Justice Department has promised to investigate subpoenas and other requests to see if Trump’s Department of Justice abused its powers.
It is not clear how the US government will respond to the specific cap on requests. However, the revelations may fuel calls for tech companies for more transparency on government requests.
And it can sometimes be difficult to know when officials are abusing their power. In theory, more transparency would detect abuses sooner and hold governments to account.