With its reputation still reeling from that celebrity photo leak, Apple has added a new privacy section to its website. That section includes a subsection on government information requests, and the statements therein could help burnish Apple's reputation with privacy advocates:
On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. 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.
The page also claims, "Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a 'back door' in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed any government access to our servers. And we never will."
Sounds pretty great... except that last claim flies in the face of evidence from last year's NSA leaks. If you'll recall, those leaks suggested that, through its PRISM program, the NSA was able to collect data straight from the servers of several Internet companies, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Apple. Along the same lines, I'd be surprised if the NSA didn't have the means to decrypt password-protected files on iOS 8 devices. The NSA leaks did, after all, suggest that the agency has built backdoors into commercial encryption software.
So, there you go. Apple may or may not safeguard your data from government spooks better than the competition. All the more reason to buy an iPhone 6. And an iWatch. And to light a candle at the Steve Jobs shrine in your basement.