Apple Could Spy on iPhone Users and Provide Real-Time Reports to the Police

Bogdan Papa

Apple is one of the largest tech companies in the United States that have been involved in user spying scandals, with many accusing the firm of working with the government on snooping on customers and providing law enforcement with access to their data. 

Cupertino, on the other hand, has actually claimed to be doing otherwise, fighting against the government on several occasions, including in early 2016 when it refused to hack a locked iPhone that was allegedly used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

This time, Apple's name is involved in new snooping claims in regard to the terrorist attacks that took place in the United Kingdom in the last few weeks. A report from Rolling Stone is making the rounds right now, as it seems to indicate that Apple has technical capabilities to spy on users and report suspicious activity to the police in real-time.

Notes stored in the cloud being monitored? 

Specifically, the report suggests that there's a chance Apple is monitoring notes uploaded to iCloud and if certain triggers are activated, law enforcement is alerted of activity that could pose a threat. Terrorists have been said to be adopting new communication methods that cannot be detected by authorities, including note-taking apps on just a single device or even mail drafts saved in a specific account.

Here's an excerpt from the aforementioned report:

"As I made my own way to the tram, I wrote in my Apple Notes app, ‘Helicopter hovering overhead,’ which to me signified that the fans were being watched over. Then two policemen stopped me and asked me who I was with and whether I’d written anything about a helicopter into my phone, without explaining the technology of how they’d read my Notes app.

"After a friendly back-and-forth, they looked through my bag, checked my ID and business card and determined I wasn’t a threat. ‘You have to understand, tensions are running high,’ one of the men said with a smile and a handshake, allowing me through the gate."

While it's all just speculation for the time being, Apple CEO Tim Cook himself admitted that the company worked together with the UK government following the recent attacks, but no specifics were provided.

“We have been cooperating with the U.K. government not only in law enforcement kind of matters but on some of the attacks. I cannot speak on detail on that. But in cases when we have information, and they have gone through the lawful process we don’t just give it, but we do it very promptly," he said.

Last month, a Russian company discovered that certain notes are stored in iCloud even after the 30-day grace period, despite users manually removing them. Apple hasn't provided any statement on these claims so far, but there's a good chance no other details would be offered on Apple's involvement in the fight against terrorism.

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