Apple Responds to Kenya's Request for Users' Phone Data

  • Photo of a man using a phone in Nairobi
    A man pictured using a phone in Nairobi
  • The Government of Kenya wrote to Apple, the makers of the iPhone, demanding information contained in two phones which have been the subject of a six-month investigation. 

    The report is contained in documents submitted to the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). 

    The government wanted the phone company to help bypass the security to obtain the contents stored in the two devices.

    A businesswoman checking messages on a smart phone
    A businesswoman checking messages on a smart phone

    However, Apple declined to grant access citing that it would be a violation of the company’s policy. 

    “Government and private entities are required to follow applicable laws and statutes when requesting customer information and data. If they do, we comply with the requests and provide data responsive to the request.

    “If we determine a request does not have a valid legal basis, or if we consider it to be unclear, inappropriate and/or over-broad, we challenge or reject it,” the company explained on its website.

    Apple stated that providing the access requested by Kenya would compromise the right to free speech. 

    Request circumstances can vary from instances where law enforcement agencies are working on behalf of customers who have requested assistance regarding lost or stolen devices, to instances where law enforcement are working on behalf of customers who suspect their credit cards have been used fraudulently to purchase Apple products or services, to instances where an account is suspected to have been used unlawfully.

    Requests can also seek to preserve an Apple account, restrict access to an Apple account or delete an Apple account. 

    Additionally, requests can relate to emergency situations where there is imminent harm to the safety of any person. Private party request circumstances generally relate to instances where private litigants are involved in either civil or criminal proceedings. 

    The rejection of Kenya’s request comes on the backdrop of the government’s move to amend the Official Secrets Act which will make it compulsory to disclose communication info.

    The Bill is supposed to help the government unravel complex webs of terrorism, money laundering and cybercrime. 

    “Any person who owns or controls any telecommunication apparatus used for sending or receipt of any data to or from any place outside Kenya to produce to the Cabinet Secretary or any other person named in the order, the original or transcripts of all such data,” the proposed law states. 

    File image of a man on his phone
    File image of a man on his phone
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