Apple reportedly rejected a request from Kenya to unlock two iPhones that were part of police investigations in the second half of 2020.
Reports indicate that fillings from the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) on December 23 show that Apple received an appeal from Kenya seeking access to communication details in two iPhones that remained locked.
“Examples of such requests are where law enforcement agencies are working on behalf of customers who have requested assistance regarding lost or stolen devices,” said the SEC in a report that lists countries that sought access to blocked iPhones.
The SEC did not disclose what kind of information Kenya sought to access on the iPhones, or their owners.
Apple rejected the requests, standing firm on on its policy to uphold the rights for free speech. Apple has in the past rejected similar appeals by governments including the US.
“Additionally, Apple regularly receives multi-device requests related to fraud investigations. Device-based requests generally seek details of customers associated with devices or device connections to Apple services.” The SEC said further.
Most of the requests to Apple seek access to the phone’s data such as contacts, call logs and photos which are normally used in the investigation and prosecution of crime.
In some cases however, the iPhones come with tight security protection, which Apple says that they lack the capacity to unlock unless they write new software allowing government agencies to bypass the phone’s security.
Apple says writing a computer code would turn on the device’s microphone, enabling surveillance.
Apple found itself embroiled in a tussle with the US government after facing demands from the government to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernadino shooters who died in a shoot out with police after killing 41 people and injuring 22 others.
The case brought to the core the debate over how much surveillance the government should have over personal digital devices.
President Uhuru Kenyatta in December signed into law a Bill proposing to give the Interior Cabinet Secretary powers to access mobile phone data from individuals suspected of spying for foreign powers without a court order.
The amendment to the official secrets act sought to allow the Interior CS issue a warrant requiring anyone suspected of being a spy to provide data including text messages, emails, voice calls, Whatsapp messages, photos and videos contained in their mobile phones, computers or tablets.
The suspect will also be expected to provide original transcripts and documents related to the data.
“Any person who fails to comply with a request made under sub-section (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year,” reads part of the law.