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Apple Releases Government Request Info, Reiterates Data Security

Submitted by on June 17, 2013 – 5:23 pm3 Comments

Apple has joined a growing number of tech companies responding to accusations of handing data over to the federal government. In a blog post on Monday, Apple released specific numbers about the government requests they receive for user data.

They company writes that they received “between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from US law enforcement” covering between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices during the six-month period from December 2012 to May 2013.

It’s difficult to determine exactly how many US Apple users there are, but the company sold 17.7 million iPhones domestically in the last quarter of 2012 alone.

Apple also emphasized that these numbers represent requests from all levels of law enforcement, not just those concerning federal national security:

The most common form of request comes from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide.

Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities.

Apple was cleared by the US government to release these numbers, but is still not allowed to specify how many requests were made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Earlier, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google had all made similar disclosures about the requests they receive for information. All emphasized that the requests included many routine criminal matters, but that they were not allowed to release specific FISA numbers. Google’s chief legal officer directly urged US Attorney General Eric Holder to allow disclosure of FISA numbers, saying the distinction is important for quelling speculation.

Tech companies immediately denied any knowledge of the PRISM program after accusations were first made by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6. This contrasted with accusations about the NSA collecting data on Verizon customers, which was quickly confirmed by the government and private industry.

Apple also assured users of their own security encryption measures:

[C]onversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.

What do you think of Apple’s latest comments?

[via the BBC]

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