Apple Tracks Who You Contact on Messages, Stores Logs for 30 Days

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Sep 28, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Conversations in the Messages app feature end-to-end encryption that makes the content of the messages impossible to decipher, but according to documentation found by The Intercept, Apple tracks who its customers send iMessages to and is able to hand that information over to law enforcement when compelled to do so through a court order.

    When a text message is sent to someone, the Messages app pings Apple's servers to see if the person has an iPhone or iPad in an effort to determine whether to send a message via iMessage or SMS. Each ping records date, time, number, and IP address, all of which is kept in a log that Apple says it stores for 30 days
    The data on how Messages works was reportedly obtained by The Intercept from a document entitled "iMessage FAQ for Law Enforcement" that was given to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Electronic Surveillance Support Team. While labled "Law Enforcement Sources" and "For Official Use Only," it is not clear who wrote it.

    Click to enlarge. Image via The Intercept

    As The Intercept points out, the documentation suggests that each number entered into the Messages app is transmitted to Apple when a new chat is opened, even if a conversation does not end up taking place. An Apple spokesperson said that the logging information in the iMessage FAQ is "generally accurate" but did not give additional data to make it clearer exactly when the Messages app pings Apple's servers. Apple did, however, give the following statement:
    Apple takes a strong stance on privacy and promises to keep customer data private with tools like end-to-end encryption for the Messages app, but it has always maintained that there is some information that it is able to provide to law enforcement officials when compelled to do so.

    Apple's website features a privacy section that details the information it collects and the types of data that it provides for government requests, including a full rundown of what's available to law enforcement [PDF]. Apple's documentation does not appear to mention Messages specifically, but it does specify that iCloud connection logs are retained for 30 days and that FaceTime calls logs are also maintained.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: Apple Tracks Who You Contact on Messages, Stores Logs for 30 Days
  2. ZacNicholson macrumors 6502a


    Jun 25, 2011
  3. Deelron macrumors regular

    Jan 30, 2009
    This seems like a non-story, wouldn't basically any service of this type have to keep this sort of data for a brief period of time?
  4. SoAnyway macrumors 6502

    May 10, 2011
  5. venom600 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 23, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Does this surprise anyone? Even the messages are held for up to two weeks if they can't be delivered. It seems like a non story. If you don't want records kept, use Signal.
  6. bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    No better than Google, nor any other phone company to begin with.

    Again, since your data is going through a third party, they are not protected by the 4th Amendment when it comes to needing a warrant for search. All that is needed is a subpoena by a clerk of the court (and by default, any lawyer is a clerk of the court).

    All of this was mentioned in the following thread, 3 years ago.

    This isn't Apple's fault. This isn't Google's fault. This isn't any Telco's fault. The fault of this lies in how the 4th Amendment is applied, and that it does not cover 3rd parties in charge of handling your data.

  7. critter13 macrumors 6502

    Aug 23, 2010
    what purpose do the logs serve outside of being able to supply this information to law inforcement? Could apple just encrypt the logs as well?
  8. Kaibelf Suspended


    Apr 29, 2009
    Silicon Valley, CA
    No issue here. Sometimes people send a text and the message has to sit there until the recipient's phone is on as well. Either way, the content is secure and that's what we all care about. The rest is the equivalent of the list of who you called that's on any phone bill.
  9. AustinIllini macrumors demi-goddess


    Oct 20, 2011
    Austin, TX
    It's not a major issue, but it also flies in the face of Apple's privacy philosophy
  10. deany macrumors 68030


    Sep 16, 2012
    North Wales
    I heard all calls were recorded and kept for 12 months in the USA is this true too?
  11. macs4nw macrumors 601


    No issue here either but still good to know. Also smart to occasionally remind oneself that no matter numerous claims to the contrary, no single internet communication is 100% secure.
  12. kemal macrumors 65816


    Dec 21, 2001
    I would pay to use a service that would go out of its way to piss of law enforcement.
  13. keysofanxiety, Sep 28, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016

    keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    No, it doesn't. Apple are completely upfront with their privacy policy.

    We're talking about a messaging app, synced across Mac/iOS devices, capable of sending SMS and iMessage, with the entire conversation history available until you delete it. Pinging a device and Apple's servers, to figure out what a device is and how to talk to it, just comes with the territory of this technology.

    And again, Apple can't see any of the content from the messages, nor do they store it or even have the facility to decrypt it. Complete non-issue.
  14. v0lume4 macrumors 68000


    Jul 28, 2012
    Like many other posters here, my answer to this is: Is this really a surprise?
  15. Mascots, Sep 28, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016

    Mascots macrumors 68000


    Sep 5, 2009
    Well, the purpose for the existence of these logs could be for any number of reasons that I can't think up - caching, aiding people in switching from iMessage, random metrics, selling Teddy bears, etc. Just because you or I can't think of a specific reason outside of the law enforcement angle doesn't mean they exist for law enforcement.

    I think the better question is what do these logs serve to provide law enforcement agencies? Not very much.
    - There is no guarantee that conversation took place
    - Response Time is not real
    - Queries aren't made for all messages sent or attempted
    - Queries can be made without messages being sent (or without confirmation on the user-end)
    - Numbers aren't tied to any particular device

    There is the chaining together an IP with an action, but it's all very circumstantial. It's less than what could be taken from telecom companies, which has defacto records acknowledging communication between two parties took place when utilizing their message system.

    I just think Apple needs to make it be known - but IMO this is even less evasive than FaceTime logs which they already do.
  16. macfacts, Sep 28, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016

    macfacts macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2012
    What reason would Apple have for logging ip address?
  17. nikhsub1 macrumors 68020


    Jun 19, 2007
    mmmm... jessica.'s beer...
    I think perhaps you don't understand the article.
  18. 2457282, Sep 28, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016

    2457282 Suspended

    Dec 6, 2012
    No, I don't think so. Here is what the story failed to explain. When you start to send a text message say a new one, you type in the phone number of the person you are intending to text. Apple then pings it server to determine whether to make the bubble blue for imessage or green for sms. If you decide not to send or to send the message is a separate issue. Apple has already determine which method it will use and has given you a visual clue to that decision in form of the color. This is just as intended and has no real bearing on security or privacy. The only thing that we might be able to argue is that Apple should only keep that log for a week or a day but a month does not seem totally unreasonable.
  19. KdParker macrumors 601


    Oct 1, 2010
    Nothing new.

    If you get an phone and get connected with a carrier...then everything you do can be traced.

    Been that way for years.
  20. Larry-K macrumors 68000

    Jun 28, 2011
    Hey, I already pay good tax dollars to have the NSA do that!
  21. thermodynamic Suspended


    May 3, 2009
    No need for the /s sarcasm tag, the sentiment is misplaced:

    Look back to Apple's 2009 privacy based lawsuit, Apple helping China's law enforcement but not the FBI, etc...

    Why should any company touting anonymity?

    In some ways and places, it's fair to do so. Arguably one could support Apple on this topic as well given issues surrounding terrorism. Which is fair.

    But it's probably more related to some marketing scheme to find local stores of services in the area, FWIW.
    --- Post Merged, Sep 28, 2016 ---
    But Apple is a private company and will do it better and cheaper, "just because".

  22. Branskins macrumors 65816

    Dec 8, 2008

    From Apple's docs:
    “When you use your device, your phone number and certain unique identifiers for your iOS Device are sent to Apple in order to allow others to reach you by your phone number when using various communication features of the iOS Software, such as iMessage and FaceTime.”

    “Apple has FaceTime call invitation logs when a FaceTime call invitation is initiated. These logs do not indicate that any communication between users actually took place.”

    “Please note the only categories of user generated active files that can be provided to law enforcement, pursuant to a valid search warrant, are: SMS, iMessage, MMS, photos, videos, contacts, audio recording, and call history. Apple cannot provide: email, calendar entries, or any third-party app data.”

    “iCloud content may include stored photos, documents, contacts, calendars, bookmarks and iOS device backups. iOS device backups may include photos and videos in the users’ camera roll, device settings, app data, iMessage, SMS, and MMS messages and voicemail. iCloud content may be provided in response to a search warrant issued upon a showing of probable cause.”
  23. deany macrumors 68030


    Sep 16, 2012
    North Wales
  24. oneMadRssn macrumors 601


    Sep 8, 2011
    New England
    I'm having a hard time seeing how this is more than what is already available to law enforcement though the telcos.

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148 September 28, 2016