iPhone Data Isn’t Kept As Private As Apple Wants You To Think

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Apple has been exposed for secretly storing iPhone users’ calls and FaceTime history for months through the iCloud service, with no way for people to opt out.

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Earlier this year, Apple rose up as a champion for their customers’ privacy when they went head to head with the FBI after the bureau requested the password to crack into the San Bernardino mass shooter’s phone.

The company went to great lengths to fight the FBI’s request because they didn’t want to set a precedent that would put consumers’ privacy in jeopardy.

New reports indicate, however, that Apple may not be such a great protector of our privacy after all.

As TechCrunch noted, iPhone call history syncs between devices that share the same Apple ID. As it turns out, Apple retains that data on its servers for up to four months and can be accessed by law enforcement. According to Digital Trends, FaceTime logs are also stored.

For those with the iOS 10 software installed, incoming missed calls from Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber are included in the automatic sync, according to Vladimir Katalov, CEO of the Russian digital forensics firm Elcomsoft, which unearthed Apple’s hidden feature.

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In order for iPhone users to be able to check their missed calls on multiple devices, the company uses iCloud to sync the logs between all gadgets associated with the same Apple ID.

The privacy issue comes into play because Apple holds the iCloud encryption keys, meaning that the FBI could ask for the information and Apple could comply.

Most iPhone users willingly hand over their call logs, text messages, notes, and everything else when they activate iCloud backups, which are recommended in order to access your information should any glitch occur with your phone. It’s a bit of a “catch-22,” so to speak. But, even if you choose to keep iCloud switched off, your call logs are still being stored.

Apple intends to make iCloud more secure to keep the government from having any loopholes to access users’ information, but those plans have yet to come to fruition, TechCrunch reports.

Apple has reportedly complied with thousands of requests from the FBI to access iCloud data in the past and is open about having done so; however, consumers should be made aware of how much of their information can be obtained by authorities.

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Furthermore, the fact that the call logs are retained for up to four months seems a bit extreme. The average person isn’t likely to be concerned with retrieving their call history from that far back. That time frame simply allows Apple to build up an arsenal of customers' personal phone calls.

After reports began circulating about this potential breach of privacy, an Apple spokesperson released a statement — presumably attempting to ease consumers’ concerns.

“We offer call history syncing as a convenience to our customers so that they can return calls from any of their devices,” the statement reads. “Apple is deeply committed to safeguarding our customers' data. That's why we give our customers the ability to keep their data private. Device data is encrypted with a user's passcode, and access to iCloud data including backups requires the user’s Apple ID and password. Apple recommends all customers select strong passwords and use two-factor authentication.”

While it’s important for iPhone users to take the initiative to remain aware of the content they are uploading to iCloud, Apple should also be educating its customers about what gets synced to iCloud by default.

If Apple wants to stand up for the sanctity of privacy, they should first offer their consumers transparency. 

Banner Photo Credit: Flickr, iphonedigital

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