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The Trump administration forced Apple to secretly reveal at least two Democrats’ data

The Trump administration forced Apple to secretly reveal at least two Democrats’ data


Trump reportedly went after Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

By now, you may have heard that Trump’s Department of Justice secretly seized the phone records of journalists working for The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post, in the hopes of revealing their sources and stopping leaks to the press. But the NYT is now reporting that Trump didn’t stop at journalists — in 2017 and 2018, it forced Apple to cough up metadata on at least two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, including current chairman Adam Schiff and representative Eric Swalwell, and as many as a dozen people tied to that committee in total, including family members and at least one child.

Like the media outlets, Apple was under a gag order and unable to tell anyone until it expired this year — the only reason we’re learning about this now is because the new administration’s Justice Department decided to reveal the subpoenas and gag orders to the press.

Metadata is powerful

While one of the NYT’s sources insist that Apple only provided metadata, not photos or the contents of emails, it’s been well-established for years that metadata is data: you can learn a lot if you know where, when, and who a given person is talking to, particularly if you combine that with other insights. (An earlier NYT investigation showed that the amount of location data smartphones already reveal to data brokers is enough to identify someone personally.)

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last Saturday, the Justice Department promised it would no longer secretly subpeona records from journalists to root out leaks.

Update, June 10th, 11PM ET: Added confirmation that Swalwell was part of the probe.