News / Science & Technology

Apple Reveals Government Data Requests

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook addresses the crowd during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2013 in San Francisco, California, June 10, 2013.
Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook addresses the crowd during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2013 in San Francisco, California, June 10, 2013.

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Apple has released the number of information requests it has received from governments around the world, a first for the tech giant, which follows in the footsteps of Google, Facebook and Microsoft in releasing similar information.

From January 1 to June 30 of this year, the company said it received between 1,000 and 2,000 requests for information from U.S. law enforcement agencies. This concerned from 2,000 to 3,000 accounts. The company said it had given data to law enforcement on 1,000 accounts or fewer.

Tech companies are only allowed to disclose information about law enforcements requests and the information disclosed to them in increments of 1,000.  When disclosing law enforcement requests, companies must also combine those requests with national security requests to make it difficult to discern how the requests break down.

Apple noted its disagreement with the restrictions.

"We feel strongly that the government should lift the gag order and permit companies to disclose complete and accurate numbers regarding FISA [Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act] requests and National Security Letters," Apple said in its report. "We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent."

Apple said the most common "requests involve robberies and other crimes or requests from law enforcement officers searching for missing persons.”

The company added that “in very rare cases” it had been asked to provide photos or email.

“We consider these requests very carefully and only provide account content in extremely limited circumstances," the firm said.

Other tech companies have also registered displeasure with the restrictions on releasing information about government requests and are challenging the U.S. Department of Justice, so far with no success.

Apple said it filed a letter with the FISA Court requesting greater transparency.

Tech companies want to push for greater transparency on the heels of revelations by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden that said they allowed the NSA direct access to stored information, an allegation the tech companies deny.

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