Contrary to the popular belief, iMessage does not provide its users with complete privacy. Apple keeps track of who you try to chat with and the information can be handed over to the law enforcement if necessary.
700 million iPhone users currently use the iMessage application to connect with their friends, family and colleagues. The popular application guarantees complete privacy. However, this may or may not be true. Recently, a report from The Intercept called everyone’s attention to an unknown fact: Apple does not know what your chats are, though it might be tracking who you’re talking to. Apple doesn’t disclose more than a surface description of its system. It has been criticized for years for not providing more detail.
“Your iMessages and FaceTime calls are your business, not ours. Apple has no way to decrypt iMessage and FaceTime data when it’s in transit between devices.” Apple claims as pointed out by many Apple blogs.
A Florida law enforcement agency created a briefing sheet on the information Apple can provide them in urgent situations. The report says the list of information includes iMessage logging information and IP addresses of its users.
Reportedly, check-ins do not happen every single time someone sends a message, but they happen in regular time intervals. The logs do not show the contents of messages. It only shows contacts who entered a user’s iMessage. However, that can still be highly revealing. The Law enforcement essentially has the ability to acquire a list of any person or business that an iPhone user has considered contacting.
How does Apple receive this information?
Apple iMessages are encrypted end-to-end. That means the messages you send on the platform can only be read by you and their recipient. Apple can’t read them and because it does not have the encryption key. It can’t decrypt them, even if the authorities request it.
However, Apple sees who you are trying to contact and whether or not they have iMessages themselves. Given that iMessages automatically pings Apple’s servers to see if a person has an iMessage account when you try to contact them. Moreover, Apple records the date and time the request was made. According to the same report, they record IP address the request came from. Which can, in no time, provide them your location. These logs are saved for 30 days, at which point the information is deleted. However, Messages and other built-in iOS apps occasionally check back in with Apple’s servers. They generate new logs on who users are contacting.
What Apple Has to say
The Intercept, to confirm its doubts, confronted Apple regarding the issue. Which confirmed the story:
“In some cases, we are able to provide data from server logs that are generated from customers accessing certain apps on their devices,” Apple says. “We work closely with law enforcement to help them understand what we can provide and make clear these query logs don’t contain the contents of conversations or prove that any communication actually took place.”
The language here indicates that the collection of these contact logs may not be entirely consistent. It says the logs are generated when accessing “certain applications.” It’s also worth noting that the existence of a log entry does not, in Apple’s view, mean that communication actually occurred. We are all leaving a trail of information across all of our digital devices and on various servers around the world. The recent iMessage update, along with iPhone 7, drew many eyes and appreciation from iPhone users with its amazing features and efficiency. However, this major drawback can prove to be a big stigma on the Apple symbol.