What's Up With Apple: Older iPhone Update, More Washington Scrutiny and More

Owners of older iPhones are getting an update to iOS 12 that includes security patches for recently discovered vulnerabilities. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) on Monday released iOS 12.5.4 for the following iPhone models: iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3 and iPod touch (sixth generation).

According to Apple’s support notes, the update fixes a security issue that could have allowed a maliciously crafted security certificate to execute arbitrary code. Two similar problems with WebKit were also patched, although Apple said it was aware that the issue may have been actively exploited.

In the nation’s capital, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee announced Monday that it will begin an investigation into the Justice Department’s “surveillance of Members of Congress, journalists, and others.” In a statement, committee chair Jerrold Naylor (D-NY) said:

Recent reports suggest that, during the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice used criminal investigations as a pretext to spy on President Trump’s perceived political enemies.

It remains possible that these cases—which now include Members of Congress, members of the press, and President Trump’s own White House Counsel—are isolated incidents. Even if these reports are completely unrelated, they raise serious constitutional and separation of power concerns. Congress must make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the Department to spy on the Congress or the news media. We should make it hard for prosecutors to hide behind secret gag orders for years at a time. We cannot rely on the Department alone to make these changes.

Also Monday morning, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that he has directed the Justice Department’s inspector general to “conduct a thorough and independent investigation” into the department’s procedures in “any investigative or prosecutorial decisions.” Garland also said, “If at any time as the investigation proceeds action related to the matter in question is warranted, I will not hesitate to move swiftly.”

Last week, Apple revealed that it had responded to more than 100 subpoenas from the Trump administration. The subpoenas sought user data on members of Congress, the news media and others, according to Naylor who also said, “I am encouraged by the steps the Attorney General announced this morning, but we cannot wait for the Inspector General to share even his preliminary findings with DOJ, some months or years from now, before Congress contemplates a response.”

Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice told Bloomberg, “The explosion in digital data that is held by internet companies and other third parties has made these subpoenas much more powerful and much more intrusive on people’s privacy.”

We can add this investigation to the pile of legislation proposed last Friday to stem the power of a handful of tech companies. In this case, however, the issue is more likely to affect the amount of data Apple, Google and the rest collect that could be subject to a subpoena. The more these firms have, the more that could be turned over in response to a subpoena.

Finally, Apple has quietly reduced its one-year free trial of Apple TV+ with purchases of new Apple devices to a period of just three months. The shorter trial period begins in July and essentially eliminates the nine-month extension to Apple’s original three-month free trial.

Apple TV+ is believed to have 30 million to 40 million users, most of whom are believed to be free trial users. Apple does not release granular data on subscriber numbers.