But another aspect of Apple’s report today stands out as a bold and clever move. Senior Counsel & Free Expression Director at Center for Democracy & Technology Kevin Bankston, formerly an EFF Attorney, noted an interesting claim in the document. Specifically, Apple stated specifically that it had never received a PATRIOT 215 order.
The very last line of Apple’s report today states “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”
The cleverness of this becomes evident when you realize that if it had received such an order, it could not disclose it under current rules surrounding national security orders for user data. This tactic of announcing ‘nothing’ with regards to a government subpoena for data is known as a kind of ‘warrant canary’. Basically, Apple says that at this point it has not received any such order. But, if that phrase stops appearing in future transparency reports, this acts as a ‘canary in a coal mine‘ that indicates to users that it may have been forced to comply with such an order and not disclose it in the future.
Clever indeed. Apple is trying its best to be socially responsible by including such a silent alarm.