World and Nation

Apple update keeps data private, even from police

Apple wants to make clear that it wants nobody snooping around in your device, not even the police.

The company said Wednesday night that its latest software system, iOS 8, included deep protection of the information stored on Apple mobile devices. So deep, in fact, that Apple says it has become technically impossible for it to comply with government warrants asking for customer information like photos, email, messages, contacts, call history and notes to be extracted from devices.

The company said all this information was under the protection of a customer’s passcode, the four-digit number used to log in to the device. In the past, Apple was able to extract certain types of information from devices, even when they were locked with a passcode, in response to a search warrant.

The new security in iOS 8 protects information stored on the device itself but not data stored on Apple’s cloud service. So Apple will still be able to hand over some customer information stored on iCloud in response to government requests.

Apple announced the revised privacy policy on its new privacy Web page,, which included a letter written by Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” the company said. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

Chris Soghoian, a principal analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union, said Apple’s new privacy policy reflected the revelations of the government surveillance programs revealed in documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden. “The public has said they want companies to put their privacy first, and Apple has listened,” Soghoian said.

The Web page includes explanations of what types of information Apple does and does not collect, and why. It also lists Apple’s latest so-called transparency reports, which break down how, when and why it handles requests from law enforcement or government agencies seeking information about customers.

In addition, the Web page also teaches consumers how to turn on security features, like two-step verification, to protect themselves from hackers.

Apple’s ability to protect customer information was openly questioned after a number of celebrities discovered that hackers broke into their Apple accounts, stole nude or provocative photos and posted those photos on the Internet.