Apple Transparency Report Shows Spike in Requests for Data

Apple’s latest transparency report puts some hard numbers on the number of law enforcement and government requests it receives for device and user data.

Apple’s latest transparency report published on Wednesday shows a big increase in the number of law enforcement and government requests for account and device data.

Publication of the report comes on the heels of the latest chapter in the Apple-FBI tussle over encryption and privacy. Tuesday’s hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee dredged up many of the same talking points the two sides have had since the FBI gained a court order compelling Apple to help it unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

The transparency report covers the last six months of 2015 (July 1 to Dec. 31) and shows that Apple disclosed some data in 82 percent of U.S.-based law enforcement requests (subpoenas, court orders or warrants) for account data. Account data as identified by Apple includes Apple IDs, email addresses, telephone numbers, credit card numbers, and other personal identifiers.

In total, there were 1,015 law enforcement requests for account data affecting 5,192 accounts. Apple disclosed data on 4,411 accounts, it said. Apple said the types of data disclosed based on the personal identifiers included iCloud, iTunes or Game Center data. For the first half of 2015 (Jan. 1 to June 30), Apple disclosed that it received 971 requests on 2,727 accounts, and that it disclosed data on 1,407 accounts.

The number of U.S.-based law enforcement requests nearly doubles those made from Europe (536) and nearly five times those made from Asia Pacific (223), Apple said.

Apple also disclosed the number of law enforcement requests for device data, most of which were related to lost or stolen iPhones, iPod, iPads and Macs.

“The number of device-based requests issued by a government agency and/or a court that are received by Apple and seek customer data related to specific device identifiers such as serial or IMEI numbers,” Apple said.

Apple disclosed that it received 4,000 law enforcement device requests affecting 16,148 devices. Apple said it provided data in 80 percent of those requests (3,201). Apple complied with far fewer requests from Asia-Pacific (63 percent), and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (52 percent). For the first half of 2015, Apple said it received 3,824 requests affecting 9,717 devices.

Apple also said that it received between 1,250 and 1,499 National Security Letter requests for the same time period, affecting between 1,000 and 1,249 accounts. Those numbers are up from the first half of 2015 (750-999 NSL requests on 250-499 accounts). Companies are allowed by law to report National Security Letters only in bands of 250.

“To date, Apple has not received any orders for bulk data,” Apple said.

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