Apple Releases Transparency Report

While Apple continues to face U.S. government efforts to force it to unlock iPhones connected to law enforcement investigations, the company also gets thousands of requests for customer data from agencies around the globe every year.

Between July 1 and December 31 of last year, the company received 1,015 requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies for data about 5,192 specific customer accounts based on Apple IDs, e-mail addresses and other personal identifiers, according to Apple’s most recent report on government information requests, released yesterday. Apple said it provided some kind of data for 831 of those requests covering 4,411 accounts, which equates to a request response rate of 82 percent.

Meanwhile, during the same time period, Apple objected to 116 of the U.S. account requests it received, and didn’t provide data for 184 account requests.

Wide Range of Response Rates Globally

For account requests in other countries, the report showed Apple with data disclosure rates ranging from 0 percent in New Zealand (six requests), Cyprus (one request), Kuwait (one request), Malta (one request) and Russia (three requests) to 100 percent in the Dominican Republic (one request) and Canada (six requests).

Globally, Apple also reported it received 178 emergency requests for information — 106 in the U.S. and 43 in the U.K. — during the second half of 2015. Those requests involved situations where “Apple believes in good faith that an emergency involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires such disclosure without delay.”

From July through December, Apple also received between 1,250 and 1,499 National Security Orders from U.S. officials, according to the report. Requests for information through National Security Letters (NSLs) or court orders are issued under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Many NSLs require that recipients not publicly acknowledge they have received such requests.

Ongoing Challenges, Debates

Apple recently faced off against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in a case where the agency had sought to force the company to write new code to unlock an iPhone in its possession. The FBI dropped its court order against Apple last month after it found third-party hackers who were able to help the agency access data in the phone.

The iPhone 5c had been used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, carried out a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., on December 2 that left 14 people dead. The pair was shot dead by police later that day.

The U.S. Department of Justice, however, is still pursuing a separate case to force Apple to unlock another iPhone related to a drug dealing case. Speaking on background with the media earlier this month, attorneys for Apple said they were disappointed with the government’s efforts to try to set a legal precedent with such challenges.

In another data privacy development today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced it had filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit against the Justice Department to “shed light on whether the government has ever used secret court orders to force technology companies to decrypt their customers’ private communications, a practice that could undermine the safety and security of devices used by millions of people.”

The debate over encryption and security also came up in a hearing today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Among those testifying during the hearing was Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell.

Source: Top Tech News

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