Apple Consistently Compiles With US Data Requests

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Privacy champion? Apple’s own figures reveal it nearly always compiles with US requests for user data

Apple has revealed it consistently complies with data requests from US authorities, in spite of the perception by some that it is privacy champion.

Apple’s privacy credentials were highlighted earlier this year when it refused to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone belonging to a dead terrorist.

Data Requests

Apple’s dealings with data requests from the US and foreign governments were revealed in its latest transparency report for the July to December 2015 period.

“For government information requests, we report as much detail as we are legally allowed,” said Apple. “When we receive an account request from law enforcement requesting a customer’s personal information, we will notify the customer a request concerning their personal data was made unless we are explicitly prohibited from doing so.”

The report revealed that Apple splits requests data into two sets of figures.

network scan machine fingerprint privacy security © Bruce Rolff ShutterstockThe first deals with government requests for data on users’ devices, and the second deals with government requests for account data.

Apple said this later category can be “information about an account holder’s iTunes or iCloud account, such as a name and an address. In certain cases, we are asked to provide customers’ iCloud content.”

The figures reveal that US authorities requested device data 4,000 times in that six month period. Apple provided data in 80 percent of these case.

The UK in comparison issued 1,969 requests in that same six month period, but Apple only provided data 55 percent of the time.

When account requests are examined, Apple’s figures reveal that US authorities request account information 1,015 times, and 82 percent of the time the iPad maker provided information to US authorities.

The UK in comparison issued 208 account data requests, which were fulfilled 58 percent of the time.

Apple received 1250-1499 “National Security Orders” in the six month period, that affected 1,000 to 1249 accounts.

Surprisingly, Germany is the country requesting the most device requests (11,989), followed closely by the United States (4,000). Australia is third with 3,004 requests. China for example logged 1,005 requests.

The leading country request account data was the United States (1,015), followed by the UK (208) and Germany (130).

Privacy Champion

The report figures may surprise those who believed that Apple was a vigorous privacy champion in the wake of the furore surrounding its refusal to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook.

To be fair the report shows that Apple does object frequently to government data requests, but all US firms can be compelled on national security grounds to hand over data on their servers when requested by US officials.

Microsoft is actually one of the leading tech firms fighting for greater user privacy.

For years now Redmond has been locked in a legal battle with US authorities over a court order to turn over customer email records, despite the fact that the records are stored outside the United States in a sovereign country (Ireland).

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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