Apple keeps track of all the phone numbers you contact using iMessage

Apple has shared data from its server logs with police.

In the wake of an FBI investigation, Apple mounted a high-profile campaign on behalf of its users’ privacy. But it turns out our privacy is still being compromised.

Apple keeps a log of everyone you try to contact using iMessage, according to a leaked documented. These logs contain personal contact information, including phone numbers, and are stored in Apple’s servers for 30 days before being deleted. Furthermore, Apple has shared these server logs with police after being compelled by a court order, according to the leaked document obtained by The Intercept.

Apple has exalted iMessage for its end-to-end encryption, meaning that the contents of the messages cannot be accessed anywhere else outside of the iPhone. But Apple is storing contact information and metadata every time an iPhone is used to send a message. Apple acknowledged sharing certain data from its server logs with police.

The company sent the following statement to The Intercept:

“In some cases, we are able to provide data from server logs that are generated from customers accessing certain apps on their devices. We work closely with law enforcement to help them understand what we can provide and make clear these query logs don’t contain the contents of conversations or prove that any communication actually took place.”

So, how are these logs created in the first place? Every time you send a text on your iPhone, the Messages app pings the Apple servers to check if the recipient is a fellow iMessage user. Apple keeps a log of all these queries, including the phone numbers or contact information of the parties involved (iMessage can be linked to an email address), date, time, and IP address.

Apple stores this information on its servers for 30 days, even if the recipient turned out not to be using iMessage (in other words, they’re a green bubble). It’s unclear how often these queries are re-triggered. According to The Verge, they “don’t happen every time a message is sent, but... they do occur on a regular basis.”

Why this matters: Even though Apple admitted to storing contact information and keeping track of every time your iPhone sends a query to its servers to check for iMessage compatibility, Cupertino has made it very clear that a query does not prove that a conversation actually took place.

The query to Apple’s servers is initiated right after you finish typing a phone number into your Messages app, but the query is completed—turning the phone number either blue (iMessage) or green (default SMS)—without you having to send or even type an actual message.

Phone companies comply with similar court orders all the time, sharing metadata and call logs, so this new information simply means the iPhone is on par with other smartphones. However, Apple has a reputation as a staunch guardian of users’ privacy—the company has been very clear as to why it won’t share certain information, but should be just as transparent about the information it does share.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Messaging

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Oscar Raymundo

Macworld.com
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?